Moniz wants more DOE funds for protecting power grid in emergencies

Severe Flooding Strikes Southern U.S.

Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz recently told the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources recently that increased investment is needed in U.S. energy emergency response.

During an Aug. 16 field hearing in Seattle, Wash., Moniz highlighted DOE’s expanded emergency response responsibilities, and the need for comprehensive and coordinated response capabilities in the face of increasingly integrated energy systems and evolving threats.

“Looking ahead, Congress will be a key partner in ensuring that we strengthen our prevention and response capabilities,” Moniz told the hearing held by Ranking Member Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).

“Furthermore, integrated North American electricity grids and energy markets have increased the need for joint grid security strategies,” Moniz said in his prepared testimony.

“The U.S. has new responsibilities for protecting LNG [liquefied natural gas] export supply chains,” Moniz said. “We also remain large net crude oil importers but now are large net oil product exporters as well as exporters of some crude oil; thus, we remain directly tied to world oil markets and global oil price volatility.”

DOE has also announced up to $34 million in funding, subject to appropriations, for twelve projects representing energy sector organizations in nine states through the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability’s Cybersecurity of Energy Delivery Systems (CEDS) program.

As the anniversaries of Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy approach, Moniz detailed DOE’s increased role in emergency response coordination as it relates to recovery from natural and manmade events such as severe weather, natural disasters, electromagnetic pulses (EMPs), damage from climate change, aging infrastructure and cyber threats.

Secretary Moniz also described the essential operational priorities of the DOE and the urgency required to ensure that the agency can continue to serve its most critical functions in the face of increasingly dynamic threats.

During his prepared testimony, Moniz cited “troubling occurrences such as a series of as yet unexplained attacks on exposed electricity substations, including the Metcalfe incident in California and the Liberty substation in Arizona,” Moniz said.

“As a result, public consciousness has been raised about the vulnerability of our electric grid and the need for the U.S. to substantially raise its game in addressing those vulnerabilities,” Moniz said.

Natural disasters, for example, can also affect more than one element of the energy industry, Moniz said.

“Also during Sandy, power outages shut down gasoline pumps, demonstrating the interdependencies of energy infrastructures and our growing reliance on electricity,” Moniz said. “Within one week of Sandy’s landfall, less than 20 percent of gas stations in New York City were able to sell gasoline.”

In addition to looking at lessons learned from previous disasters, Secretary Moniz also highlighted the importance of emergency preparedness exercises to coordinate response to future disasters, such as Clear Path IV, held in April 2016 in Portland, Oregon and Washington, D.C.

The Clear Path exercise scenario focused on identifying how DOE and its public-private energy stakeholders would coordinate in response to a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami stemming from the 700-mile long Cascadia Subduction Zone that stretches along the Washington and Oregon coasts.

As a result of the exercise, DOE is working with the Department of Homeland Security and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to provide damage assessments through advanced algorithms that analyze aerial imagery, highlighting the role of science and technology solutions.

Energy storage is another key technology the DOE is supporting that helps to increase grid resiliency. In additional to supporting greater deployment of variable renewable energy resources, energy storage technologies can keep customers and communities up and running during outages by supplying power to affected areas, Moniz said.

When integrated into microgrids, another focus area of the DOE, energy storage technologies can work in tandem with distributed generation and other energy resources to meet the needs of critical loads such as hospitals, first responders, and water supplies for an extended period of time.

In addition, DOE is supporting modeling and testing of transformers to better understand their vulnerabilities to geomagnetic disturbances and electromagnetic pulses, informing new design requirements, Moniz said.

A link to the Moniz prepared testimony can be found here.

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