CSG Webinar: Storm Recovery—Building Stronger, Smarter Electrical Grids. June 12, 2013

Natural and manmade disasters wreak incredible amounts of destruction on our nation’s energy and electric infrastructure. Recent events like Hurricane Sandy impacted over 20 states and caused over $20 billion in insured losses and left millions without power for several days.  State policymakers can learn from these tragic and terrible events and find ways to improve the resiliency and strength of their electric grid infrastructure with strategic all-hazards planning and implementing new technological benefits provided by SmartGrid technologies. On Wednesday, June 12, CSG’s webinar "Storm Recovery—Building Stronger, Smarter Electrical Grids" featured two prominent grid modernization experts who shared their expertise and perspective on proactive steps states can take to improve the hardening and redundancy of energy infrastructure.

Miles Keogh, the webinar’s first panelist and director of research and grants with the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, began his presentation by encouraging policymakers to think first about applying an enterprise risk management strategy that utilizes an “all-hazards” approach to balance financial, regulatory and event consequences of protection critical infrastructure. That threat analysis should consider the a particular piece of infrastructure’s vulnerability, likelihood, and consequence of an event. Utilities and grid managers must first plan for the electric grid’s reliability to minimize the scale, duration, and frequency of power outages. To undertake that, the resilience of grid infrastructure must be flexible and robust before a storm or event occurs. Grid managers must be resourceful to respond to challenges as an event takes place and they must react quickly when the storm passes with adaptable protocols. In order to have flexible and adaptable response capabilities, “smart” infrastructure must be utilized to improve reliability by applying modern, advanced IT systems to so-called “dumb” electric infrastructure. Keogh offered several suggestions to policymakers to help meet the goal of electric grid resiliency. The first set of suggestions is interacting with federal agencies with disaster preparedness and oversight over response efforts, including those that involve cybersecurity. He recommended that state legislators maintain and establish oversight of state agencies to ensure that adequate planning, resource diversity, and reliability standards are being met. Further, he mentioned that information protection standards must be established as the grid and its control functions continue to move cloud computing and other IT systems. He concluded by providing a final checklist of potential actions states should consider:

  • Seek Information and Education
  • Review Utility Commission Enabling Statutes
  • Recognize Importance of and Encourage Energy Efficiency and Demand Response Programs
  • Review Utility Oversight Laws for Security Implications
  • Review Statutes Governing Energy Office and Duties

The second panel was Paul Molitor, head of association communications for the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. Molitor began his remarks by highlighting the significant standards setting activities and technical working groups the 400-plus member companies are undertaking in NEMA. His presentation focused more granularly on the technical solutions and perspectives that can be utilized during storm recovery to harden and protect the electric grid.  Disruptive technologies like microgrids and distributed power generation have the ability to provide key benefits during extreme weather events, according to Molitor. He used an example of how microgrids played a key role in helping people mitigate the impacts of terrible disasters. The Tohoku Fukushi University, which has microgrid/distributed generation capability, had zero evacuations following the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami in Japan, while Bellevue and NYU Hospital in New York City had to evacuate hundreds of patients during Hurricane Sandy. Key components of a SmartGrid solution must include:

  • Smart Meters
  • Sensors
  • Distribution Automation
  • Global Information Systems
  • Outage Management Systems
  • Cybersecurity and information protection capability

Molitor went on to discuss and explain the substantial roles back-up power generation and disaster planning can play before events strike. Some practical takeaways that policymakers can use when reviewing lessons learned from storms, especially after Hurricane Sandy, is understanding where power generation equipment is stationed in buildings and their suceptiability to storm surges or flooding. For example, many old buildings in New York kept critical power infrastructure in basements that were flooded during the storm. His closing recommendations for states included:

  • Start a dialogue with utility commissions and other utility stakeholders to develop a state-wide implementation plan for smart grid
  • Ensure your state has an updated disaster recovery plan
  • Evaluate statutes and regulatory policies that might be prohibitive to microgrids
  • Adopt and enforce the most current building codes to promote safety and protect property

 Download the slides in PDF

Storm Recovery—Building Stronger, Smarter Electrical Grids

 

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