As Florida, the Carolinas and the Caribbean recover from Hurricanes Fiona and Ian, the impact of the storms on the energy system remains palpable, underscoring the vulnerability of the nation’s energy infrastructure to extreme weather.
Ian disrupted power to more than 4 million customers in Florida and an additional 1.1 million in the Carolinas. Earlier this year, extreme heat threatened California’s electric grid and led officials to urge consumers to reduce electricity use. In its assessment of the U.S. electric sector’s preparedness for the 2022 summer cooling season, the North American Electric Reliability Corp. forecast an “elevated or high risk of energy shortfalls.” A related assessment of energy demand from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission predicted increasing prices of natural gas and, therefore, electricity. Record-setting heat across the country and recent storms demonstrate the need to take these assessments seriously. In addition to $14 billion in new investments in grid resilience from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to be deployed in coming years, some states have already begun to address energy security and reliability.
State Energy Actions
This year, California enacted Assembly Bill 205 to create a “reliability reserve fund” of approximately $5 billion to bolster the state’s energy reserves. Connecticut created an energy storage pilot program to improve energy resilience. Colorado passed HB22-1249, tasking the state’s Energy, Local Affairs, and Resiliency offices with creating a road map to help lawmakers understand the system’s needs and vulnerabilities and to evaluate the potential for microgrid deployment to improve grid reliability. And Maryland launched a new Office of Resilience to develop a state resilience strategy and coordinate resilience-building initiatives, including reducing the impact on energy infrastructure as identified in the state’s hazard mitigation plan.
Alongside state legislatures, public utilities commissions have also been addressing energy reliability and access. Hawaii’s PUC is reviewing a proposal by Hawaiian Electric to invest $190 million in grid resiliency, including the hardening of critical transmission lines and the undergrounding of select overhead distribution lines. In Minnesota, the PUC approved a plan by Xcel Energy’s $9 million Resilient Minneapolis Project to develop three microgrid projects at community centers in the city.
As extreme weather in recent years has demonstrated, energy systems are vulnerable to a host of challenges, from summer heat, drought and hurricanes to winter storms. State legislatures will continue to explore ways to make energy systems more resilient to these challenges. With new federal funding available and risks becoming increasingly clear, states are evaluating hazards, investing in mitigation projects and prioritizing energy resilience and reliability.