THE MAGAZINE

Keeping the Lights On

By Teresa Anderson

As a working definition, resiliency was defined as the “ability of the distribution system to absorb stresses without experiencing a sustained outage,” of more than five minutes. However, the task force stressed that resiliency extends beyond the distribution of energy to the preparedness of the populace and the emergency response system.

The task force held eight roundtable discussions over 60 days, hearing testimony from 50 experts. State agencies and utilities were asked to share information on outages from the derecho and recent hurricanes and blizzards as well as staffing levels at the time of the storm.

In its final report, Weathering the Storm: Report of the Grid Resiliency Task Force, the task force offers 11 recommendations, ranging from policy improvements to disaster drills. The recommendations are designed to be taken as a whole rather than as a set of independent suggestions. As the report explains: “While some may call attention to certain of the task force’s recommendations, it is critical to understand that they work best as a unified strategy. The coordinated implementation of the recommendations is as important as the recommendations themselves; if rolled out in an ‘a la carte’ manner, they may not produce the expected results.”

In its recommendations, the task force addresses policy concerns, steps utilities must take to harden the grid, and planning for future disasters.

Policy

Among the topics addressed in the policy recommendations were agency differences in data collection on outages and the need for improving information sharing among state agencies.

When comparing the outage information from the three major state utilities, the task force found that each company collected data differently and used different terminology. The resulting reports could not be compared, and some information was simply unavailable. For example some utilities failed to keep information on outages across different types of systems such as overhead or underground lines. And other companies made no distinction among the load densities experienced in different areas, meaning that outages in rural areas were not distinguished from outages in urban areas. To solve this problem and have better information going forward, the task force recommended standardized reporting criteria.
 

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