MICROGRIDS IN A TIME OF CRISIS
Updated: Mar 26
by Daniel Schwab, CEO
During times of crisis, sustainability and affordability take a back seat when compared with the importance of resiliency. All over the world, professionals are tasked with the important jobs of ensuring that our lights, computers, fridges and many other critical blocks of modern life stay connected and working. Imagine trying to manage Corona without electricity! Such a scenario would knock our world back hundreds of years.
A little-known company, North American Electric Reliability Corporation, (NERC), stepped and took responsibility of assuring the effective and efficient reduction of risks to the reliability and security of the grid.
On March 10, NERC issued a Public Level 2 alert on contingency planning related to COVID-19 asking registered entities to report the status of their emergency plans, so that an accurate assessment of resiliency followed by the appropriate responses, could be actioned. In Israel, the Minister of Energy issued an order requiring senior management at the national electricity utility (Chevrat Chashmal) to avoid remaining in a single location simultaneously to avoid the risk of the entire senior management team falling ill.
Such an event would potentially have a disastrous impact on the reliability of the grid. While we are accustomed to having electricity whenever it’s needed during any kind of conditions, 24/7/365, there are unfortunately some significant risks inherent in our complex electricity supply system. Having the expertise and knowledge on how to manage these risks and upgrade our systems to improve resiliency and reliability is vital, so that both our global economy and society’s health and safety are ensured far into the future.
According to a study conducted by the American Public Power Association most utilities do not publicize reliability reports, so we are mostly operating in the dark unaware of the risks. However, according to a report “Projecting Future Costs to U.S. Electric Utility Customers from Power Interruptions” by Lawrence Berkeley National Labs with MIT and the US government EPA, concludes that “cumulative customer costs, through the middle of the century, are:
This analysis suggests that some risk management practices – in the form of widespread and aggressive undergrounding of distribution lines and increased O&M spending – are not always cost-effective. This counter-intuitive finding occurs for the two models where the effect of the long-term reliability trend has been suppressed beyond 2005.
According to the above study: “A fully distributed power system – or even wirelessly-distributed electricity – could result in future generations experiencing fewer power interruptions. A number of researchers have indicated that distributed generation can provide customers with improved reliability. Though the full-scale implementation of these potential technologies would likely reduce future costs, installation and maintenance of these technologies will require large investments by utilities”.
 see Le et al. 2006; Chiradeja and Ramakumar 2004