White House Report Calls for Increased Electric Grid Resilience

on August 16, 2013 at 5:00 PM

Overnight Storms Knock Out Power To Over A Million In DC Area

A White House and DOE report calls for investments to increase the nation’s electric grid resilience and outlines strategies for grid modernization.

On August 12, 2013, the White House Council of Economic Advisors and the Department of Energy (DOE) released a report emphasizing the importance of grid resilience for climate adaptation.  The report, titled “Economic Benefits of Increasing Electric Grid Resilience to Weather Outages,” assesses the current grid state and impact of weather-related power outages, with regard to the increasing intensity and frequency of weather events.  Specifically, the report analyzes the impact weather-related outages between 2003 and 2012 and calls for increased investment to strengthen the electric grid, outlining strategies to enhance grid resilience and reliability.

Basic Structure of the U.S. Electric Grid (DOE)

Among the key findings, the report estimates that weather-related outages from 2003 to 2012 cost the U.S. economy an annual average of $18 billion to $33 billion.  During the period, there were approximately 679 outages, each affecting at least 50,000 customers.  Weather-related disasters were highest in 2011, followed by 2012, which incurred $11 billion in storm damage.  The age of the grid, in some cases more than 100 years old, is increasingly susceptible to severe weather events.

To address grid modernization requirements, the federal government allocated $4.5 billion under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  From June 2011 to February 2013, the funding has enabled deployment of 343 advanced grid sensors, digital upgrades of 3,000 distribution circuits, installation of 6.2 million smart meters, and investment in 16 energy storage projects.  In 2011, President Obama unveiled a four-pillared strategy for grid modernization, directing significant investment in smart grid technologies to increase grid efficiency, reliability, and resilience.

Emphasizing the need to strengthen the electric grid in response to increasing incidence of weather events, the report identifies strategies to improve grid flexibility and control.  The strategies complement existing initiatives, including President Obama’s 2011 initiative and the 2009 Recovery Act.  They prioritize efforts to

  • Manage risk by conducting exercises to identify and mitigate potential impacts of hazards
  • Consider cost-effective strengthening to eliminate the distribution system’s susceptibility to weather damage
  • Increase system flexibility and robustness with additional transmission lines, energy storage devices, and microgrids
  • Increase visualization and situation awareness to provide precise information about outages and facilitate efficient responses
  • Deploy advanced control capabilities, such as real-time monitoring tools to alert operators
  • Install critical components and software systems to provide alerts and actionable information

The electric grid – comprised of more than 450,000 miles of high voltage transmission lines, and distribution, management, and control systems – connects more than 144 million customers with 5,800 major power plants.   The need for a more resilient grid is more apparent than ever, with additional benefits of improved efficiency in energy use, reductions in carbon emissions, and enhanced security against cyber-attacks.

August 13, 2013 via Energy Solutions Forum

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