New report reveals grid reliability is increasing despite new challenges
The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) recently graded the nation’s grid on reliability. The report revealed the electric grid is highly reliable and continues to improve despite emerging challenges that may stress it in the coming years.
To understand the NERC report, it helps to know the system that delivers your electricity is often described as the most complex machine in the world. The U.S. bulk power system is made up of more than 7,300 power plants and nearly 160,000 miles of high-voltage power lines. This system is responsible for delivering the majority of electricity to local utilities and their millions of miles of lower-voltage lines that ultimately connect homes, businesses and other energy consumers to the electric grid.
The electricity that the bulk power system carries to you must be generated at the exact same time as you flip the switch to use it. If that sounds like a mind-boggling job of high-tech coordination, it is. Here are a few of the major challenges the electric sector is facing and NERC’s recommendations for facing these challenges head-on.
NERC recommends a shift in focus from just making sure there’s ample energy supply to putting measures in place to withstand, adapt, protect against and recover from the impacts of extreme weather events. NERC advises steps to provide more transmission connections across the country so power can be more easily shared. NERC also sets plans to better prepare equipment for cold weather — as many generating units failed in the freezing temperatures of Winter Storm Uri.
Beefing Up Cybersecurity
Electric utilities repelled threats from what NERC called “increasingly bold cyber criminals” and referred to a relatively new term for using the internet for political and social protest, “hactivism.” NERC has established the Electricity Information Sharing and Analysis Center that gathers information about the latest cyber threats and advises utilities about safeguards to take that supplement existing cybersecurity programs.
Increased Renewable Energy
Renewable fuels like wind and solar are clean energy choices, but they come with drawbacks for a smooth-running grid at any hour of the day. One major downside is they depend on whether the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. NERC calls them “variable energy resources” and sees a long-term solution in large-scale batteries that can store renewable energy so it can be available whenever it’s needed. Although battery technology is rapidly improving, NERC notes that utilities should continue to rely on natural gas-fired power plants to produce additional electricity when renewable options aren’t available.
Today’s energy landscape is wide-ranging and rapidly changing, yet the U.S. electric grid continues to keep power flowing. Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives are working closely with grid operators to provide the dependable electricity you rely on every day.