Ott Addresses Resilience Importance at Grid 20/20

Why this Grid 20/20? Why the focus on security and resilience? Why now?

Andy Ott, PJM president and CEO, opened the Grid 20/20 forum Tuesday in Baltimore with those questions. Ott said one of the goals of the forum was to start deeper conversations about resilience – and begin to answer those questions.

“What problem are we trying to solve,” he asked, adding that he hoped the forum would help define the problems and address concerns.

PJM held the forum – one in a series on industry topics – to help define what is meant by resilience, why it is important, and why it is in discussion.

“We used to talk about equipment failure and outages caused by storms,” said Ott. “Now, the threat profile has changed, the considerations are broader. There could be intentional attacks – cyber or physical.

“Those concerns lead us beyond reliability and into resilience.”

Ott cited the recent Department of Energy report and noted that resilience has been in the conversation across the industry, the government, the media and the general public. It is one of the first things people think of with news about hackers and North Korea. The terrible toll of this year’s hurricane season has also placed scrutiny on grid resilience in the face of severe weather events.

For PJM, resilience is the ability of the grid to withstand or bounce back quickly from all events that pose additional operational risks, Ott said. These risks range from extreme weather to earthquakes, cyber and physical attacks, and events not yet imagined.

Resilience, however, goes beyond the reliability standards that are the key to smooth daily grid operation, he added. It addresses challenges and emerging risks in order to withstand a prolonged, large-scale outage.

Ott said PJM is looking at three areas:

  • Making critical facilities less critical
  • Fuel security
  • System restoration

Ott said making facilities less critical will come through a planning process that considers resilience as a factor or its own driver in future projects.

Ott emphasized that building system resilience is not “gold plating” the system. Whatever solutions PJM and other grid operators develop, there needs to be guidelines. Resilience solutions have to make sense, be cost-effective with checks and balances.

“How do we look at critical facilities? How do we treat them in the planning process? We plan around critical assets and tie it back to broader topics,” he said.

For fuel security, Ott said PJM will look at its relationship with emerging technology, which would consider operational needs in managing real-time conditions, including more sophisticated gas-electric coordination.

“We want to make the sure the gas supply is secure,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of work already; we’ve made a lot of great progress. We need to make sure, in the long term, we are not over-dependent on one set of [fuel] infrastructure.”

Ott said PJM has been working on system restoration scenarios for a long time.

“How do our plans stack up? We want to make sure all of those plans are up to date. It’s not a lot of money, but it is a lot of process. We are looking to reduce single points of failure, if they exist in the restoration plans, and understanding how alternative technology can help in restoration scenarios.”

In a question and answer session after his opening remarks, Ott discussed the PJM resilience roadmap that it will discuss with stakeholders but pointed out that “no one item will cover everything.”

“[Resilience] activities will happen as a part of the discussion,” said Ott. “If we don’t do something, it will be done for us.

“We want to assure stakeholders, we are placing more emphasis on actions to take now. This is not something that will be solved overnight.”