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Georgia regulators demand answers about Atlanta airport blackout


The state Public Service Commission demanded that Georgia Power answer a series of questions about the fire that shut down power at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and stranded tens of thousands of passengers in Atlanta and around the world.

The five-member commission, which regulates the state's utilities, gave Georgia Power 30 days to respond to questions about how the blaze knocked out the backup electrical system and led to an 11-hour power outage.

The questions sent Wednesday to Georgia Power included a demand for the utility to outline steps to prevent another electrical fire from knocking out electricity to the world's busiest airport. Another prods the company to explore whether thermal energy and new technologies would have minimized the outages.

The Sunday outage was particularly bad timing for Georgia Power. The Public Service Commission is set to vote Thursday on whether to allow Georgia Power to continue construction on the embattled Plant Vogtle nuclear project, which is billions of dollars over budget and several years behind schedule.

Keep reading: Plant Vogtle’s fate could shake up next year’s race for Georgia governor

Here's a list of the PSC's questions to Georgia Power:

STF-34-1     Please provide, in the detail, the apparent cause of the December 17, 2017 Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport outage.

STF-34-2     Provide, in detail, the sequence of actions Company took from first notification to restoration of service.

STF-34-3     Who (what entity- fire dept.) notified GPC (Distribution operations?) or was notification received through the TCMS (Trouble Call Management System)?

STF-34-4     Did outage show up on Distribution display board to notify the 24 hours personnel of trouble on circuit?

STF-34-5     What time were crews dispatched to location?

STF-34-6     How long did it take to get the fire under control?

STF-34-7     List equipment that malfunctioned and/or was involved in the outage. Please identify the last time the equipment that failed was inspected by Georgia Power. What were the inspection procedures?

STF-34-8     Was there a back-up system available to be switched over to in case one circuit failed? If so, Why was a back-up / redundant not able to pick up load? If not, please explain why no back or redundant system had been installed.

STF-34-9     Please show a layout of the system that serves Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.

STF-34-10     When was this underground circuit installed? How often is the equipment inspected? List the date of the last inspection.

STF-34-11     Have there been other instances of fire damage-small or large-to this circuit in the past ten years?

STF-34-12     Provide a detailed root cause analysis of this event.

STF-34-13     Provide a preliminary estimate of the costs to repair the system.

STF-34-14     Please provide information about coordination with the Airport and the City in response to the emergency and on an ongoing basis.

STF-34-15     Provide information as to decisions about means, methods, and content of communicating the issues and responses to the public.

STF-34-16     Will Georgia Power be taking further cybersecurity/critical infrastructure security measures for the airport now that this vulnerability has been exposed?

STF-34-17     What steps does the Company propose to prevent this event from recurring?

STF-34-18     If a new redundant circuit is proposed to be installed, please provide the detailed cost estimate and timeline for installing such a system.

STF-34-19     Would the effect of this event been minimized if Hartfield-Jackson had a functional microgrid system that included thermal energy sources, renewable energy and energy storage technologies?

STF-34-20      Has the Company studied the feasibility of installing a microgrid system for such a critical customer? Will it do so given its acquisition of PowerSecure, a company experienced in constructing microgrids?


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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.