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May 09, 2018
Brattle Economists: Efforts to Enhance the Resilience of the Electricity System Should Focus on Transmission

Economists at The Brattle Group released a study today that explores the important role that transmission plays in grid resilience and how policies and investments directed at strengthening the electricity grid can cost-effectively enhance the resilience of electricity supply.  The report provided support for comments filed at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), who are examining ways to improve the resilience of the U.S. electricity system.

Resilience of the electric power system is the ability of the nation’s electricity infrastructure to prevent or diminish damage from high-impact, low-probability events without undue disruption and to rapidly restore service when such disruptions occur.  The Brattle authors find that:

  • A robust and flexible high-voltage transmission grid can absorb the damage potentially arising from multiple local generator outages without customer service disruptions by providing access to a network of technologically diverse and geographically dispersed set of power supplies.
  • Transmission owners and operators enhance overall system resilience by pursuing investments in both physical assets and operational changes that strengthen the ability of the regional and inter-regional transmission grid to keep operating when challenged by adverse events and to aid the rapid restoration of service when damage and customer outages do occur.
  • The FERC can recognize the central role of the transmission grid in promoting electric system resilience by continuing to support an array of investments to strengthen the transmission grid, and expanding the role of resilience in regional and inter-regional transmission planning to build upon and expand the inherent resilience benefits that the transmission grid already provides.
  • Transmission planning should anticipate significant adverse events and account for the insurance value of protecting consumers from widespread outages when assessing the benefits of transmission expansion.

“The most productive efforts to enhance resilience in the electric power sector have typically focused on strengthening the transmission and distribution systems,” noted Brattle Principal Marc Chupka, a co-author of the study. “Recent debates regarding fuel security in the generation sector should not divert attention away from the benefits from reinforcing the current grid and incorporating resilience into the process of planning the grid of the future.”

The report was prepared for WIRES and attached to their comments in the FERC Docket No. AD18-7-000. WIRES is an international non-profit association of investor-, member-, and publicly-owned entities dedicating to promoting investment in a strong, well-planned and environmentally beneficial high voltage electric transmission grid.  More information can be found at www.wiresgroup.com.

The study, “Recognizing the Role of Transmission in Electric System Resilience,” was co-authored by Brattle economists Marc Chupka and Pearl Donohoo-Vallett. It is available for download using the link below.