The blackout of August 2003 was a massive dislocation of American life, with millions of people in eight states and Canada losing power and a cost estimated in billions of dollars. As many as fifty million people were affected by the blackout. While the ultimate cause of the blackout is still being investigated, the implications for national policy may not be fully known for decades. The blackout was a wake up call and a watershed event that calls for reevaluation of just about every facet of the electric utility industry. We tend to think of a "wakeup call" as something that awakens us from a moribund state, but this event was different. For the past decade and longer, the electric power industry has already been grappling with fundamental changes. Restructuring, the introduction of competition at the retail and wholesale levels, the costly and protracted debates about the intersection of the federal Clean Air Act with the industry, all of this activity was taking place and already redefining the industry at the time the blackout happened.

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