Keywords: risk assessment, cascading failures, hidden failures, weak links, electric power systems
Risk assessment of catastrophic failures in electric power systems
The declining reliability of the US electric power system is raising major concerns among both politicians and power engineers in the USA. One of the reasons put forward by the North Electric Reliability Council (NERC) is the detrimental role played by the protection systems during large disturbances, which tend to help the perturbations to propagate through over-tripping of fault free system components due to hidden failures. It turns out that the present practice in power transmission planning and online security analysis is to neglect the impact of the protection systems. In addition, the aim is to mitigate the vulnerability of the system to the loss of a single piece of equipment only by carrying out an N-1 security analysis. Consequently, the risk of cascading failures leading to blackouts and brownouts is neither assessed nor managed. This paper describes methodologies together with algorithms that assess the conditional risk of catastrophic failures in electric power networks due to hidden failures in protection systems. A catastrophic failure, defined as one that results in the outage of a sizable amount of load, may be caused by dynamic instabilities in the system or exhaustion of the reserves in transmission due to a sequence of line tripping leading to voltage collapse. Only the latter case is being considered. The aim of these algorithms is to identify the weak links in the systems, which are defined as those branches of the network whose tripping due to a fault lead to the highest probabilities of a catastrophic failure. The proposed methods are demonstrated on a 7-bus and a 61-bus system.