Electricity Grid Resilience

The nation’s grid delivers electricity that is essential for modern life. However, the grid faces risks from events that can damage electrical infrastructure (such as power lines) and communications systems, resulting in power outages. These outages can threaten the nation’s economic and national security.

They can also disproportionately affect low-income groups, in part because such groups have fewer resources to invest in backup generators and other measures to minimize the impact of outages.Even though most of the electricity grid is owned and operated by private industry, the federal government plays a key role in enhancing grid resilience.
• The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is responsible for coordinating the overall federal effort to promote the security and resilience of the nation’s critical infrastructure sectors.
• The Department of Energy (DOE) leads federal efforts to support electricity grid resilience, including research and technology development by national laboratories.
• The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) reviews and approves standards developed by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, the federally designated U.S. electric reliability organization.

Key Issues
The electricity grid faces multiple risks that can cause widespread power outages.
Risks:
- Extreme weather and climate change
- Cyber- and physical attacks
- Electromagnetic events

In addition to the risks described in the prior page, the electric utility industry faces complex challenges and transformations, including:
• aging infrastructure;
• adoption of new technologies, such as information and communication systems
to improve the grid’s efficiency; and
• a changing mix of power generation. The traditional model of large, centralized power generators is evolving as retiring generators are replaced with variable wind and solar generators, smaller and more flexible natural gas generators, and nontraditional resources. Such resources include demand-response activities which encourage consumers to reduce their demand for electricity when the cost to generate electricity are high, and various technologies (e.g., solar panels) that generate electricity at or near where it will be used—known as “distributed generation.”

Key Opportunities
Agencies have implemented several of GAO’s recommendations for improving electricity grid resilience. For example, in March 2016, we recommended that DHS designate roles and responsibilities within the department for addressing electromagnetic risks, which DHS did in 2017. However, as of September 2021, agencies had not yet implemented a number of GAO recommendations that represent key opportunities to mitigate risks in the following areas:

- Extreme weather and climate change - Prioritize efforts and target resources effectively. Enhance grid resilience efforts. Better manage climate-related risks
- Cyberattacks - Assess all cybersecurity risks. Address risks to distribution systems Consider changes to current standards. Evaluate potential risks of a coordinated attack

ICC and RESNET to Develop Standard on Remote Virtual Inspections for Energy and Water Performance in Buildings

The International Code Council, the leading global source of model codes and standards and building safety solutions, and RESNET, a national standards-making body for energy efficiency ratings and certification systems, will continue their long history of collaboration by developing a new American National Standards Institute (ANSI) candidate standard on remote virtual inspections (RVI) for the energy and water use performance of buildings. Previously, the two organizations have worked together to develop a new certification designation, the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC)/Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Compliance Specialist, and four other ANSI standards. Most recently, they advocated and received recognition of the Home Energy Rating System (HERS®) Index within California.

The new standard will provide guidance for implementing RVI for energy code compliance and for energy and water efficiency performance. Performance raters will be provided criteria to check all aspects of permitted construction for compliance with energy codes and other energy-related applicable laws and regulations. As a next step, a new Standard Development Committee will be formed to develop and maintain the standard with the Code Council and RESNET appointing representatives – both separately and jointly.

“Building construction is rapidly evolving and jurisdictions are being challenged to adapt,” said Mark Johnson, Executive Vice President & Director of Business Development, International Code Council. “The need for new inspection methods has been building for a while as the inspector workforce has shrunk and jurisdictions’ resources have come under financial pressure. The pandemic also increased the pressure to evolve, and quickly.”

RVI is a tool to address these problems and organizations such as the Code Council have developed guidance documents to assist code enforcement entities.

“As more code enforcement departments begin their digital transformation and adopt technologies like RVI, there needs to be standardized criteria for how it is implemented,” said Steve Baden, Executive Director, RESNET. “A national consensus standard for RVI as it applies to energy- and water-use efficiency inspections and ratings will both provide code enforcement authorities with assurance that the ratings they adopt for code compliance are reliable, as well as advance the efficiency and efficacy potentials of these new approaches to determining code compliance.”

The standard would be co-sponsored by the Code Council and RESNET and developed using RESNET’s ANSI accredited procedures as an American National Standard by ANSI. For more information on RVI, the Code Council released a whitepaper, Recommended Practices for Remote Virtual Inspections (RVI), which will be the foundation for the development of the new consensus standard.

Digital is the future of urban energy

Cities already account for two-thirds of energy consumption and produce more than 70 per cent of carbon emissions globally every year.

With more than half of all people in the world living in cities, smart urban energy systems are needed to bring climate-damaging emissions down to net-zero in the next few decades.

Digital solutions can help cities reduce emissions and make the transition to clean energy systems, according to the latest report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

By 2050, when almost 70 per cent of the world’s population will be city dwellers, energy will be in even higher demand.

To provide it sustainably, cities will need smart grids and innovative storage that integrate renewable power generation, electrified transport, and efficient heating and cooling, along with climate-safe bioenergy and waste-to-energy solutions.

Bringing all these together will depend on top-to-bottom digitalization of urban energy systems and related services. The IEA report, 'Empowering Cities for a Net Zero Future', based on consultations with over 125 experts, advises pioneering cities on how to ensure a sustainable energy future based on digital technologies.
Building smart grids

Flexible energy systems enable agile responses to real-time situations, balancing demand and supply throughout the day. Smart grids with real-time monitoring and predictive analytics can offer reduced peak loads, better integrate renewables at lower costs and minimize pressure on aging grid infrastructure.

Smart grids will be crucial to address global warming by reducing carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions. Direct access to data, meanwhile, empowers consumers to manage their energy consumption and costs.

In the United Arab Emirates, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) says it has installed a local smart grid that enables "automated decision-making and interoperability across the entire electricity and water network."

By 2050, digitalization and smart controls can reduce CO2 emissions from buildings by 350 million tonnes, the IEA estimates.

Heating, air conditioning, motion sensors, ventilation and other data can encourage more efficient energy use. For instance, appliances can be operated when solar and wind power are active.

Electric vehicles (EVs) can be charged overnight, when electricity demand is lower, or when solar photovoltaic (PV) production exceeds other demand. Crucially, plugged-in EVs can also add energy storage capacity to the whole system.
Connected mobility

Electrification of transport and widespread EV use will help to scale up renewable energy sources through smart charging and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) systems that adapt charging rates to power availability and sometimes even return power to the grid.

People who hesitate to adopt EVs could be reassured by real-time data on costs and the availability of charging points.

Smart mobility applications can help residents pick modes of transport, including public transit and shared schemes, with more awareness about lowering emissions.

In Lathi, Finland, a mobile app shows the different transport options available and their respective carbon emissions. Virtual credits awarded for a low footprint can then be used to purchase city services and products.
Standards for climate-safe cities

Harmonized international standards can enable the interoperability of smart energy solutions as well as ensure data privacy, grid stability and cybersecurity, the IEA report affirms.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) already work together closely on standards development through their joint smart city task force.

Innovators aiming for system-level harmonization can look to smart city standards like ITU Y.4459, “Digital entity architecture framework for Internet of Things interoperability”, developed by ITU-T Study Group 20 (Internet of Things and smart cities and communities).

Key Performance Indicators for Smart Sustainable Cities – prepared by the United for Smart Sustainable Cities Initiative based on an ITU standard aligned with UN Sustainable Development Goals (ITU Y.4903/L.1603) – have set a benchmark for best practices and provide a practical framework to assess each city’s progress towards net-zero emissions and digital transformation.

A key standard developed by ITU-T Study Group 5 (Environment, climate change and circular economy) and released last year (ITU L.1470) details the emission-reduction trajectories needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector by 45 per cent between 2020 and 2030.

This is the rate required to meet a key climate goal – limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius during this century, compared to pre-industrial levels, in line with the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

[Source: ITU]

New IAEA Guidance in Emergency Preparedness and Response

How do you create a national strategy to protect people in a nuclear or radiological emergency based on lessons learned, scientific evidence and good practices? A new IAEA publication, Considerations in the Development of a Protection Strategy for a Nuclear or Radiological Emergency provides the concepts and practical considerations needed to build that protection strategy.
“The publication is universally adaptable and addresses the different aspects of an emergency from the direct radiological consequences to protecting against non-radiological aspects, which are decisive for an effective response,” said Svetlana Nestoroska Madjunarova, former counsellor in monitoring and emergency at the North Macedonian Radiation Safety Directorate and author of the publication.
Five main topics are covered in the publication: the concept of a protection strategy for a nuclear or radiological emergency, the basis and process for the development of a protection strategy, processes for justifying and optimizing protection and safety and consultation with interested parties. These five topics provide guidance to those planning a protection strategy, the underlying concepts and they also provide practical guidance on implementation in alignment with the IAEA safety standards and the goals of emergency response as defined in General Safety Requirement Part 7.
The publication also provides an outline for national protection strategies to support national efforts to develop justified and optimised plans to protect health and minimize danger to life and property during and following a nuclear or radiological emergency, as well as specific guidance for the effective, optimal implementation of the strategy in emergency response.
Protection measures should be based on scientifically justified methods and applied only when observations in the field indicate action is necessary. In this manner, maximum protection can be provided with minimum social and economic disruption. Justification in emergency response means taking diverse factors into account to achieve more good than harm. Optimization is a process that applies the resources at hand in the most effective manner to provide the best protection during an emergency.
Core objective
The guidance addresses both the early stages of the emergency response and the subsequent return to normality in the affected areas, while also touching on environmental, economic and other consequences. These considerations, previously addressed in separate publications, are now gathered for the first time in this unified volume.
“Effective emergency response planning requires a holistic approach that addresses all the issues arising during and following an emergency, not solely the initial consequences of the nuclear or radiological emergency,” said David Owen, expert from the United Kingdom on the publication drafting group.
The publication reflects the latest safety requirements and recommendations in emergency preparedness and response and supports their implementation.
“The eventual return to normality following an emergency is an important consideration in the protection strategy,” Madjunarova said. “Countries may expect that in this post-emergency period there is enough time to acquire the relevant social, economic and radiological information needed to make optimal decisions. Lessons learned show that a comprehensive strategy is essential in making and implementing those decisions in a timely manner.”
The publication also offers practical advice on the possible transboundary consequences of a nuclear or radiological emergency to identify potential hazards to aid cooperation with all countries that may be affected by such events to ensure effective and consistent protection of the affected populations and the environment across borders.

TSA Takes Steps to Address Some Pipeline Security Program Weaknesses

The nation's pipelines are vulnerable to cyber-based attacks due to increased reliance on computerized systems. In May 2021 malicious cyber actors deployed ransomware against Colonial Pipeline's business systems. The company subsequently disconnected certain systems that monitor and control physical pipeline functions so that they would not be compromised.
Protecting the nation's pipeline systems from security threats is a responsibility shared by both the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and private industry stakeholders. Prior to issuing a cybersecurity directive in May 2021, TSA's efforts included issuing voluntary security guidelines and security reviews of privately owned and operated pipelines. GAO reports in 2018 and 2019 identified some weaknesses in the agency's oversight and guidance, and made 15 recommendations to address these weaknesses. TSA concurred with GAO's recommendations and has addressed most of them, such as clarifying portions of its Pipeline Security Guidelines improving its monitoring of security review performance, and assessing staffing needs.
As of June 2021, TSA had not fully addressed two pipeline cybersecurity-related weaknesses that GAO previously identified. These weaknesses correspond to three of the 15 recommendations from GAO's 2018 and 2019 reports.
Incomplete information for pipeline risk assessments. GAO identified factors that likely limit the usefulness of TSA's risk assessment methodology for prioritizing pipeline security reviews. For example, TSA's risk assessment did not include information consistent with critical infrastructure risk mitigation, such as information on natural hazards and cybersecurity risks. GAO recommended that TSA develop data sources relevant to pipeline threats, vulnerabilities, and consequences of disruptions. As of June 2021, TSA had not fully addressed this recommendation.
Aged protocols for responding to pipeline security incidents. GAO reported in June 2019 that TSA had not revised its 2010 Pipeline Security and Incident Recovery Protocol Plan to reflect changes in pipeline security threats, including those related to cybersecurity. GAO recommended that TSA periodically review, and update its 2010 plan. TSA has begun taking action in response to this recommendation, but has not fully addressed it, as of June 2021.
TSA's May 2021 cybersecurity directive requires that certain pipeline owner/operators assess whether their current operations are consistent with TSA's Guidelines on cybersecurity, identify any gaps and remediation measures, and report the results to TSA and others. TSA's July 2021 cybersecurity directive mandates that certain pipeline owner/operators implement cybersecurity mitigation measures; develop a Cybersecurity Contingency Response Plan in the event of an incident; and undergo an annual cybersecurity architecture design review, among other things. These recent security directives are important requirements for pipeline owner/operators because TSA's Guidelines do not include key mitigation strategies for owner/operators to reference when reviewing their cyber assets. TSA officials told GAO that a timely update to address current cyber threats is appropriate and that they anticipate updating the Guidelines over the next year.

NCCoE Releases Draft Guide on Securing the Industrial Internet of Things

Example Solution Addresses Cybersecurity Challenges for Distributed Energy Resources
The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE) has published for comment a preliminary draft of NIST SP 1800-32, Securing the Industrial Internet of Things: Cybersecurity for Distributed Energy Resources.
In this practice guide, the NCCoE applies standards, best practices, and commercially available technology to protect the digital communication, data, and control of cyber-physical grid-edge devices. The guide demonstrates an example solution for monitoring and detecting anomalous behavior of connected industrial internet of things (IIoT) devices and building a comprehensive audit trail of trusted IIoT data flows.
By releasing Volumes A and B as a preliminary draft, we are sharing our progress made to date, using the feedback received to shape future drafts of the practice guide, and featuring technologies and practices that organizations can use to monitor, trust, and protect information exchanges between commercial- and utility-scale distributed energy resources (DERs).
Addressing Emerging Cybersecurity Concerns of DERs
The use of small-scale DERs, such as wind and solar photovoltaics, are growing rapidly and transforming the power grid. In fact, a distribution utility may need to remotely communicate with thousands of DERs and other grid-edge devices—many of which are not owned by them. Any attack that can deny, disrupt, or tamper with DER communications could prevent a utility from performing necessary control actions and could diminish grid resiliency—a concern that was highlighted in a recent United States General Accounting Office report, Electricity Grid Cybersecurity.
This NCCoE practice guide aims to help companies provide secure access to DERs and monitor and trust the ever-growing amount of data coming from them.

IAEA Develops New Benchmarks for Computational Methods for Utilization, Operation and Safety Analysis of Research Reactors

Under a recently completed IAEA project, experts have developed a benchmark database for computational methods and tools used for the utilization, operation and safety analysis of research reactors.
A benchmark in this context is an experiment conducted in a research reactor, including the measured data and sufficient details about the research reactor and the experimental facility.
“The benchmark allows modelling the experiment using a computer code,” said Frances Marshall, the lead officer of the four-year IAEA coordinated research project (CRP). “The results of the calculations are compared with the data to assess whether the code and the modelling done are adequate for the case under study.”
Benchmarking computational codes and methods against experimental data is key to assessing the validity of the codes’ application to the design, operation, utilization and safety analysis of research reactors.
The benchmarks can be used to:
- train new professionals in research reactors by allowing them to develop their modelling skills using well-documented cases (benchmarks);
- improve modelling requiring advanced code functions and user knowledge;
- conduct formal validation of codes, models or user qualifications.
The CRP benchmarked many of the most common research reactor codes used at international level, and demonstrated that the codes, methods and the nuclear data available yield results that, in the majority of cases, meet the operational requirements of research reactor facilities.
The collected data will be used to update the IAEA’s Research Reactor Benchmarking Database: Facility Specification and Experimental Data, which is a valuable resource for assisting the optimization of research reactor core management and experimental programmes, while maintaining safety.
The project was carried out by several research reactor operating organizations with ongoing irradiation and measurement activities in fuel burnup and material and target activation. The participants provided experimental data and research reactor facility specifications covering a broad range of research reactor types and power levels. The quality of the data was assessed by an independent review to confirm its use as benchmarks, leading to the establishment of 14 benchmark specifications using data from nine different research reactors. Calculations were then made by at least two participants for each of the benchmarks, using a wealth of codes, leading to a total of 53 analysis contributions.
The overall objective of the CRP was to encourage cooperation, foster the exchange of information and increase the knowledge and expertise in numerical analysis to improve the design, operation, utilization, safety and decommissioning of research reactors, in particular in fuel multicycle depletion analysis, and material and target activation calculations.

Climate Change Is Expected to Have Far-reaching Effects and DOE and FERC Should Take Actions

Climate change is expected to affect every aspect of the electricity grid—from generation, transmission, and distribution, to demand for electricity. For example, more frequent droughts and changing rainfall patterns may diminish hydroelectricity in some areas, and increasing wildfires may damage transmission lines.
We testified about how the Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission could enhance grid resilience. We recommended that DOE develop a strategy for doing so and coordinate efforts within the department, and that FERC assess grid risks and plan how to promote resilience.
Climate change is expected to have far-reaching effects on the electricity grid that could cost billions and could affect every aspect of the grid from generation, transmission, and distribution to demand for electricity, according to several reports GAO reviewed. The type and extent of these effects on the grid will vary by geographic location and other factors. For example, reports GAO reviewed stated that more frequent droughts and changing rainfall patterns may adversely affect hydroelectricity generation in Alaska and the Northwest and Southwest regions of the United States. Further, transmission capacity may be reduced or distribution lines damaged during increasing wildfire activity in some regions due to warmer temperatures and drier conditions. Moreover, climate change effects on the grid could cost utilities and customers billions, including the costs of power outages and infrastructure damage.
Since 2014, the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) have taken actions to enhance the resilience of the grid. For example, in 2015, DOE established a partnership with 18 utilities to plan for climate change. In 2018, FERC collected information from grid operators on grid resilience and their risks to hazards such as extreme weather. Nevertheless, opportunities exist for DOE and FERC to take additional actions to enhance grid resilience to climate change. For example, DOE identified climate change as a risk to energy infrastructure, including the grid, but it does not have an overall strategy to guide its efforts. GAO's Disaster Resilience Framework states that federal efforts can focus on risk reduction by creating resilience goals and linking those goals to an overarching strategy. Developing and implementing a department-wide strategy that defines goals and measures progress could help prioritize DOE's climate resilience efforts to ensure that resources are targeted effectively. Regarding FERC, it has not taken steps to identify or assess climate change risks to the grid and, therefore, is not well positioned to determine the actions needed to enhance resilience. Risk management involves identifying and assessing risks to understand the likelihood of impacts and their associated consequences. By doing so, FERC could then plan and implement appropriate actions to respond to the risks and achieve its objective of promoting resilience.
According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, changes in the earth's climate are under way and expected to increase, posing risks to the electricity grid that may affect the nation's economic and national security. Annual costs of weather-related power outages total billions of dollars and may increase with climate change, although resilience investments could help address potential effects, according to the research program. Private companies own most of the electricity grid, but the federal government plays a significant role in promoting grid resilience—the ability to adapt to changing conditions; withstand potentially disruptive events; and, if disrupted, to rapidly recover. DOE, the lead agency for grid resilience efforts, conducts research and provides information and technical assistance to industry. FERC reviews mandatory grid reliability standards.
This testimony summarizes GAO's report on grid resilience to climate change. Specifically, the testimony discusses (1) potential climate change effects on the electricity grid; and (2) actions DOE and FERC have taken since 2014 to enhance electricity grid resilience to climate change effects, and additional actions these agencies could take. GAO reviewed reports and interviewed agency officials and 55 relevant stakeholders.

Ensuring the Safety of Nuclear Installations: Lessons Learned from Fukushima

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident reinforced the importance of having adequate national and international safety standards and  guidelines in place so that nuclear power and technology remain safe and continue to provide reliable low carbon energy globally.
By recognizing the lessons learned from the 2011 accident, the IAEA has been revising its global safety standards to ensure that Member States continue to receive up-to-date guidance of high quality.
“The Fukushima Daiichi accident has left a very large footprint on nuclear safety thinking, which manifested itself in a distinct shift from the prevention of design basis accidents to the prevention of severe accidents and, should an accident occur, the practical elimination of its consequences,” said Greg Rzentkowski, Director of the IAEA’s Division of Nuclear Installation Safety.
Following the accident, through a review of relevant standards, including the IAEA safety standard on design safety, experts found that a higher level of safety could be incorporated into existing nuclear power plants by adhering to more demanding requirements for protection against external natural hazards and by enhancing the independence of safety levels so that, even if one layer fails, another layer is unimpacted and stops an accident from happening.
While requirements for protection against natural hazards have always been included in the design of nuclear reactors, these have been strengthened since the accident. In general, the design requirements now take into account natural hazards of an estimated frequency above 1 in 10 000 years, as opposed to 1 in 1000 years used previously.
Incorporating these new safety standards into the design of existing reactors was subsequently tested through comprehensive safety assessments and inspections. The assessments took into account the design features of installations, safety upgrades and provisions for the use of non-permanent equipment to demonstrate that the probability of conditions that may lead to early or large releases is practically eliminated.
“New power plants are designed to account for the possibility of severe accidents,” said Javier Yllera, a senior Nuclear Safety Officer at the IAEA. “Different safety improvements have been implemented at existing power plants, together with accident management measures.”
Safety assessments or ‘stress tests’ implemented in the European Union following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident focused on the assessment of natural hazards such as earthquakes and flooding, and on the behaviour of power plants in cases of extreme natural events and severe accidents. The overall objective was to analyse the robustness of reactors to such events and, if necessary, increase it. The margins of the safety of reactors were analysed and possible improvements were identified. The implementation of those stress tests remained the responsibility of Member States, and resulted in many design and operation enhancements in Europe.
[Source: IAEA]