Nation’s Power Grid Holding Up Well Despite Surge in Remote Work

April 24, 2020 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – Despite the fact that nearly every working American is doing so from home, necessitating video conferencing and the rest, the nation’s power grid is doing just fine, according to the not-for-profit regulatory authority tasked with overseeing it.

In a report released Thursday, the North American Electricity Reliability Corp. says while the coronavirus outbreak has raised some concerns, mostly in regard to staffing, the grid itself is currently doing just fine.

But John Moura, NERC’s director of reliability assessment and performance analysis, nevertheless warns against complacency.

As pandemic mitigation and containment strategies continue, prolonged periods of operator sequestration and deferred equipment maintenance increase the potential for a problem during the summer months and potentially longer-term.

“While we have not identified any specific threat to the reliable operation of the grid, we are in unprecedented territory and must continue to be prepared for the cumulative unknowns that are increasing industry’s risk profile,” Moura said.

Nearly 400 million people living in North America depend on the reliability and resilient nature of the grid — referred to within the industry as the “bulk power system” — to support their way of life.

As part of a coalition known as the Electric Reliability Organization Enterprise, NERC and the six regional power entities are working with regulators and government officials to assure that electricity gets everywhere it is needed or wanted.

The report notes that pandemic risk differs from many of the threats to the grid in that it is essentially a “people event” meaning, the fundamental risk is the loss of staff critical to operating and maintaining the system to such an extent that firm loads of power could no longer be served safely.

“For [the energy] industry, this means preparing to operate with a significantly smaller workforce, an encumbered supply chain, and limited support services for an extended and unknown period of time,” the report said.

“It also means that industry must be hyper vigilant to cybersecurity threats because a distracted workforce and remote working arrangements open up new attack vectors,” it continued.

As many others have suggested in other sectors of the economy, overcoming this challenge can’t be achieved until a comprehensive virus testing program is put in place.

“Testing capability is important to implement an effective sequestering plan because it ensures that all operators are healthy and are not carriers prior to being sequestered as an operating team,” the report said.

It goes on to note that to both preserve bulk power system reliability and support the pandemic mitigation strategies, industry leaders have been asking regulators and government officials to ensure COVID-19 testing is available and streamlined for essential personnel who work in shift environments; to loosen certain regulatory requirements to ensure the continued availability of control room operators, and to make sure cleaning and hygiene supplies are readily availability.

Should pandemic restrictions persist through the summer, the ability to provide reliability power could be even more compromised, the report said.

Among the potential challenges are dealing with continued workforce disruptions; support service disruption; potential equipment and fuel supply chain disruptions caused by storms and other natural phenomena, and deferred generation maintenance and other factors impacting generation unit availability.

In some areas, the deferred maintenance of right-of-ways could lead to an increase in wildfires. In others, the lack of staff could slow the refueling of many of the nation’s nuclear power plants.

In 2020, reactors at 56 nuclear power generation sites in the United States are scheduled for refueling; these refuelings require hundreds of employees to complete all the necessary tasks.

So far, the electric power industry in North America is rising to the challenges presented by the pandemic. Going forward, the report said, it will continue to monitor that system through this “unprecedented period.”

“As the industry returns to normal operations, the ERO will identify lessons learned and recommendations for improved practices,” it said.

Energy

Commentary | Energy Was On The Ballot This November
Opinions
Commentary | Energy Was On The Ballot This November

Two years ago, Democrats won back control of the U.S. House by nominating largely moderate candidates in swing districts who ignored litmus test issues like the Green New Deal and refused to be defined by extreme economic and energy policies like bans on fracking.  Two years... Read More

Wind Energy Labor Pact Viewed as Sign of What Biden Economy Will Look Like
Economy
Wind Energy Labor Pact Viewed as Sign of What Biden Economy Will Look Like
November 20, 2020
by Dan McCue

Ørsted, the Danish renewable energy group, and the North America's Building Trades Unions have entered into a pact to train an offshore wind construction workforce as the firm eyes construction of a series of wind farm projects up and down the East Coast. The deal comes... Read More

Trump Rushes Action on Environmental Issues That Could Handcuff Biden
Environment
Trump Rushes Action on Environmental Issues That Could Handcuff Biden

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is rushing to issue permits, finalize major environmental regulations and even sell the rights to drill for oil in Alaskan wilderness before Inauguration Day in a push that could complicate Joe Biden's climate and conservation agenda. The eleventh-hour regulatory race underscores the extent to which federal... Read More

Wyoming Governor Launches Energy Rebound Program to Aid Oil and Gas Industry
State News
Wyoming Governor Launches Energy Rebound Program to Aid Oil and Gas Industry
November 12, 2020
by Sean Trambley

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Gov. Mark Gordon will use CARES Act funding to assist Wyoming’s economic recovery and boost employment in the oil and gas industry. The Energy Rebound Program will utilize up to $15 million in CARES Act funding to provide business relief targeted towards drilled,... Read More

Democrats Push for Climate Change Bills Similar to Biden’s Proposals
Congress
Democrats Push for Climate Change Bills Similar to Biden’s Proposals
September 25, 2020
by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON -- Congressional Democrats used a hearing on climate change Thursday to advocate for pending clean energy bills that would revamp a big swath of federal regulations. Record-setting wildfires in western states and hurricanes along the Gulf Coast are adding to the fervor for aggressive environmental... Read More

For Democrats, Infrastructure Equals Fighting Climate Change and Creating Jobs
Energy
For Democrats, Infrastructure Equals Fighting Climate Change and Creating Jobs

WASHINGTON — In Democratic politics, and infrastructure and fighting climate change have become increasingly synonymous: You can’t have one without the other. Take the $494 billion surface transportation bill that House Democrats passed July 1. Republicans criticized it as an outgrowth of the Green New Deal.... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top