Extreme weather and other natural disasters can threaten lives, disable communities, and devastate electric utilities’ generation, transmission, and distribution systems. EPRI is continuing to work with electricity industry stakeholders in developing innovative technologies that can help ensure the resiliency of the electricity distribution system during such events. Efforts to “harden” the electricity grid must focus on three elements: prevention, recovery and survivability.
Preventing damage in the distribution system will require changes in design standards, construction guidelines, maintenance routines, inspection procedures, and recovery practices through the use of innovative technologies. A utility’s approach to these changes must be determined more specifically by its distribution system and work environment.
Proper resiliency planning ought to provide for rapid damage assessment, prompt crew deployment to damaged assets and readily available replacement components. In recent storms such as Hurricane Sandy, pinpointing affected areas was problematic as was routing crews through streets that were not blocked by fallen trees. As a result, crews were sometimes idled because they could not reach affected areas.
Survivability refers to the ability to maintain some basic level of electrical functionality to individual consumers or communities in the event of a complete loss of electrical service from the distribution system. The key elements of survivability include communicating with customers; using resilient technologies to supply critical infrastructures such as traffic signals, prisons, hospitals, and cell phones; and equipping and enabling consumers to use distributed generation. For distribution utilities, survivability is a new function – and one that will require new business models and innovation.
Read EPRI’s most recent report on Grid Resiliency issues
Learn more in an article authored by EPRI experts in Electricity Today on innovative technology opportunities in Grid Resiliency