Affiliates of eight U.S. utilities have signed a memorandum of understanding to develop a company that would offer stakeholders cost-effective solutions for enhancing grid resiliency and protecting energy customers from prolonged transmission outages. The proposed company, Grid Assurance, would provide its stakeholders (i.e., service subscribers) with access to an inventory of emergency spare transmission equipment that could otherwise take users months to acquire.
Restoration of transmission grids can be hampered by long lead times required to design, build and deliver critical replacement equipment, including large transformers, circuit breakers and other specialized electrical equipment. As proposed, economies of scale, diversification and improved logistics would make Grid Assurance more cost-effective than companies independently securing emergency spare equipment for high impact, low frequency events.
Grid Assurance plans to own and maintain equipment at secure, strategically located warehouses to help get the equipment in service faster. Grid Assurance expects to offer additional logistical support to expedite transportation of equipment to affected sites. Subscribers can call on equipment when they experience certain events, such as physical attacks, electromagnetic pulses, solar storms, cyberattacks, earthquakes and severe weather events.
The participating utilities include American Electric Power, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Duke Energy, Edison International, Eversource Energy, Exelon, Great Plains Energy and Southern Co.
Grid Assurance can complement existing programs transmission owners have, and industry initiatives, such as the Spare Transformer Equipment Program (STEP) coordinated through the Edison Electric Institute, to enhance access to spare transformers and other equipment by providing a more comprehensive inventory of critical spare equipment.
Contingent on regulatory approvals, Grid Assurance is expected to begin accepting subscribers and identifying inventory in 2016. Grid Assurance has filed a petition with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) seeking confirmation that this service can be part of a transmission-owning entity’s strategy to effectively address grid resiliency mandates.