In November 1965 the Great Northeastern Blackout left 30 million people in the United States without electricity, starkly demonstrating the nation’s growing dependence on electricity and vulnerability to its loss. It marked a watershed for the industry and triggered the creation of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).
Although power was largely restored within 12 hours, the ripple effects of public and political scrutiny continued for years. Some in the U.S. Congress were troubled by the nation’s dependence on a fragmented industry for which there was no unified planning. How could thousands of utilities be physically integrated and relied upon to operate as a unified system?
Dr. Chauncey Starr, who served a critical management role in the Manhattan Project, and who was an innovator of commercial nuclear technology and risk management, answered the call by Congress to create an independent research and development organization to support the electricity industry and address major issues. Since its beginnings in 1972, the Electric Power Research Institute’s membership has grown to represent approximately 90% of the electricity generated in the United States and extends to more than 30 countries internationally.
Much has changed in the electricity industry with advances in such technologies as renewable energy, environmental controls, and the smart grid. The opportunities for innovation and the challenges facing utilities are more diverse than ever. But our commitment to objectivity without advocacy remains unchanged, and the need continues for technological innovation, thought leadership and technical expertise. Our research portfolio addresses a range of issues that change with the times and the technology, even as the underlying expectations remain constant for electricity that is affordable, reliable and environmentally responsible.