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National Grid Recommends Key Actions to Improve Resiliency of the U.S. Bulk Power Grid


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In a filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, National Grid recommended a series of actions to improve the resiliency of the U.S. bulk transmission grid - the backbone of the nation's energy system. The comments were submitted in response to a request by the Commission for interested parties to make recommendations by May 9 in its docket entitled, Grid Resilience in Regional Transmission Organizations and Independent System Operators.

"National Grid strongly supports the Commission's efforts to improve the resilience of the nation's bulk power system," said Rudy Wynter, National Grid president & COO of Transmission, Generation, and Energy Procurement. "The U.S. bulk power system is essential for maintaining our way of life, creating stable and strong local economies, and guarding our national security."
National Grid recommends a series of actions, starting with a technical conference to foster a greater collective understanding of resilience issues among all stakeholders and:

  • create a uniform definition of resilience,
  • identify the types of high-impact events that may threaten system resilience,
  • highlight the types of solutions that can increase the system's capability to avoid, absorb and recover from high impact events,
  • focus on long-term system trends and the changing nature of system risks and vulnerabilities associated with them, and
  • determine how to incorporate the value of resilience as a market attribute, based on a quantifiable level of resilience or reliability, and that is "technology-neutral." This should include a full review of existing resiliency mechanisms to ensure they are incorporated into the wholesale markets.

Regional Approach
A hallmark of National Grid's comments is the belief that once there is a clear definition and consensus on the definition of grid resiliency, solutions should be developed regionally. Regional system operators and grid managers should assess the resilience of their bulk power systems, including risks from high-impact, low-frequency events, and determine the appropriate region-specific solutions. FERC should then direct the system operators to prioritize those efforts in their regional system plans, and report any gaps in an informational filing.

Examples of regional beneficial enhancements include hardening of infrastructure against extreme weather events; flood mitigation against storm surges and rising sea levels; undergrounding of new facilities, where appropriate, to reduce the consequences of disruptive weather; and enhanced communications and monitoring tools. New resilience requirements will also provide the necessary incentive for utilities to develop improved operational capabilities to recover from disruptive events.

In the Northeast where National Grid operates, region-specific examples of high-impact, low-frequency events include extreme weather such as ice storms and blizzards, coastal and river flooding, and hurricanes. In New England, there is an even greater and more pressing threat to system resilience posed by fuel security issues. Given the severity of the issue, National Grid urges FERC to convene a New England-specific technical conference to evaluate and recommend potential actions including:

  • additional pipeline capacity to access abundant domestic supplies
  • electric transmission investment to deliver hydroelectricity from Canada
  • large-scale renewable development including on- and offshore wind with firm transmission to load centers
  • continued focus on energy efficiency and distributed generation

Wynter commented, "The innovative leadership of the Commission will be essential if the region is to solve the looming resilience threat posed by the region's fuel security crisis."
National Grid also recommends that any gaps identified by the regional system operators should be evaluated to determine whether the North American Electric Reliability Council should revise its existing Reliability Standards, or add new ones, to address specific resilience needs. Again, any new standards should be flexible enough to enable regional entities to identify, prioritize, and develop solutions for highest risk potential threats to account for differences in geography, weather patterns, system topology, load growth trends, and generation mix.

Communication and Monitoring Technologies
National Grid also believes that adoption of communication and monitoring technologies is critical to improved resiliency as they can greatly improve the visibility of the bulk power system, and will allow system operators and transmission owners to better anticipate and more quickly respond to disruptive events.

These technologies are especially important given the unprecedented increase in penetration of distributed energy resources, increase in variable renewable generation, and changing customer needs with varying and harder-to-forecast load patterns; all of which require transmission owners to adapt their networks to become smarter, more agile, and flexible.

National Grid is in the process of fully digitizing its substations, beginning with the bulk power fleet. This will enable the company to evaluate the status of key equipment in real-time, and to plan and act before system faults occur, thereby minimizing significant risks to the network. Real-time monitoring and diagnostics also will enhance National Grid's ability to actively manage cyber security across its network, and to optimize the use of Protection and Control equipment needed to respond to constant changes to load and supply due to increasing penetration of distributed energy resources and variable generation.

In addition to increased substation automation, line monitoring sensors will increase resiliency of transmission networks. National Grid is evaluating whether technologies such as topology optimization and advanced power flow control could add a level of increased reliability and resiliency.

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