Roy Jones, CEO of ElectriCities of North Carolina, recently addressed reliability challenges facing the bulk electric system at a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) technical conference.
Jones focused on supply chain concerns, the industry’s evolving resource mix and its impact on resource adequacy, and the criticality of industry/government coordination with the North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s (NERC) Electricity Information Sharing and Analysis Center (E-ISAC).
At the Sept. 30 FERC Commissioner-led reliability conference, Jones participated in a panel that focused on bulk power system reliability and security. He appeared at the conference on behalf of the American Public Power Association, the Large Public Power Council and the Transmission Access Policy Study Group.
With respect to the supply chain, Jones highlighted that FERC must assist industry in pressing for additional government assistance in influencing supplier cybersecurity practices. Specifically, FERC must push for the development of a third-party certification program -- administered by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) -- to secure vendor-supplied high and medium impact bulk electric system cyber components. FERC and NERC can play a role in convening vendors to develop the program.
Jones said that vendors must take supply chain security on as a fundamental responsibility. If that is to happen, the electric industry, the Commission, and governmental partners at DOE and DHS “must bring the vendors to the table to discuss certification criteria and a consensus-based approach to participation,” said Jones in his statement for the conference.
With respect to the changing resource mix, Jones said that “We all acknowledge it. We know it’s coming. But we also need to acknowledge the critical role that natural gas and the existing nuclear fleet is going to play in this transformation.”
Jones also pointed out that the country’s rapidly evolving resource mix presents challenges to resource adequacy and grid reliability. The challenge is attributable to the rapid shift away from centralized generation to non-synchronous resources, including renewables, battery storage and other technologies. As this shift accelerates, industry and regulators must keep a close eye on resource adequacy and coordinate on flexible ramping and load-following resources, along with energy-assured generation.
Jones stressed that while public power utilities continue to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions FERC must work concurrently to monitor and maintain grid reliability.
In his statement, Jones said that “Keeping the lights on during a dramatic change in the nation’s resource mix may be the single most important challenge of the mid-21st century for utility managers and state and federal regulators,” he said.
Finally, Jones made the case for greater coordination between the E-ISAC and government partners in order to maximize the E-ISAC’s effectiveness and, as a result, the security of the bulk electric system.
Along with his role as CEO of ElectriCities of North Carolina, Jones also serves as Vice Chairman of the Member Representatives Committee of NERC.
ElectriCities is a not-for-profit membership organization of municipally-owned electric utilities that are spread across North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.
FERC Chairman Sees Two Main Threats To Grid Reliability
In his opening remarks at the conference, FERC Chairman Richard Glick said that there are two main threats to grid reliability.
The first is climate change and extreme weather, he said. “Extreme cold, extreme heat, wildfire seasons that start earlier and end later, massive droughts that are getting longer and having greater impact --obviously hurricanes that are much more ferocious. This is a serious issue. This is happening more and more and it’s having a big impact on the reliability of the electric grid.”
Glick said the second major threat to grid reliability comes from potential attacks -- whether they be cyber or physical -- against the grid.
Nation-states are growing ever more sophisticated “in their ability to attack our computer systems, whether it be in the electric industry, the natural gas industry or elsewhere and it’s something we need to pay attention to,” he said.
In addition, “cyber gangs are out there with ransomware. We saw that with the Colonial Pipeline incident and that’s certainly a threat to the electric grid as well.”
Other panels at the conference addressed extreme weather risks and challenges, managing cyber risks in the electric power sector, and maintaining electric reliability with a changing resource mix.