Grid 20/20 Panel Cites Siting, Technology, Transparency as Resilience Keys

Planning ahead. Making sure that solutions aren’t one size fits all. How much transparency?

The first panel at PJM’s Grid 20/20: Focus on Security & Reliability looked at those topics among others as it considered how resilience should be addressed in grid planning processes. In building the case for resilience, panelists also covered the importance of siting and new technologies.

Ken Seiler, executive director – PJM System Operations, framed the discussion as going beyond the reliability standards set by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation.

“Advancing resilience includes cost-effective solutions,” he said. “NERC requires us to plan the bulk power system to survive an N-1 contingency (losing one piece of equipment) but at any point in time we have multiple outages on the system.

“In looking at solutions, we don’t want to make existing problems worse. We need to be opportunistic and plan for a broad range of scenarios to be resilient. This includes new analytical tools to fully assess any vulnerabilities on the grid.”

Katherine Prewitt, vice president of Transmission – Southern Company, pointed out that, as important as defining what resilience is, it also is important to realize that one size won’t fit all.

“It’s different in different parts of the country,” she said. “We have to make sure we understand what we create for ourselves when we do this, performing a risk assessment and adding value for customers. We try, just like everyone else, to plan for everything, to think ahead.”

Rob Manning, vice president – Transmission and Distribution Infrastructure for the Electric Power Research Institute, agreed that what resilience means depends on “where you work.” He likened a robust system and the “recover” portion of PJM’s view of prepare-operate-recover to a boxer.

“It’s like a fighter who can take a punch and stay on [his] feet,” he said.  “It’s really the ability to jump back on your feet when you get knocked down.”

Manning also pointed out that new technologies – the materials sciences – will go a long way toward resilience. Superhyrophobic coatings for insulators, for example, prevent ice buildup in the cold and salt contamination near the sea. Those technologies, Manning said, make recovery easier.

David Roop, director – Electric Transmission Operations & Reliability for Dominion’s Power Delivery Group, said that the challenge is adapting to changing customer expectations, as well as how renewables and distributed energy resources are changing the way the transmission grid operates and is planned.

He added that resilience would be bolstered by having alternate transmission paths and redundant substations to serve areas.

For transparency, Prewitt said, “We can work on something, but we won’t know it works until we put it to the test. Many of the things that we’re at risk with, we don’t understand.” There is the concern, she added, that too much transparency might create more risk.

“Sometimes we’re stuck in the same way we’ve always done things,” she said. “We have to be willing to be open to determine how much information is too much information. There is a balance somewhere.”