Andrew Trump is a senior principal in West Monroe’s Energy & Utilities Practice. He leads and supports practice development, business development, and client delivery in a wide range of electric and gas regulatory and strategy assessments and planning activities. Caleb Kao is a senior consultant in West Monroe’s Energy & Utilities practice. He has a background in energy and environmental policy and has advised utilities on grid modernization.
Each year, and across the U.S. power grid, unexpected, extended electricity power disruptions cause extensive physical harm and inconvenience to communities and individuals, and billions of dollars in direct and indirect economic losses, consequences of arguably inadequate levels of electrical system resiliency.
From a distribution grid investment planning point of view, there is a yawning gap between our general awareness of the potential dangers posed by the next big storm (or other causes) and our ability to economically value its consequences. Because it's hard, and the tools we do have are imprecise, it might be getting conveniently pushed to the side. But is this prudent?
Improving resiliency certainly isn't just a matter for the distribution grid, (concerning as it does the bulk power system and the reality of impacts to generation and transmission assets). The resiliency valuation challenges are lurking within most grid plans if we look closely enough.
There's jointness: whereas most grid plans promote improvements in order to improve reliability, such as feeder hardening, more sophisticated fuses and reclosers, and advanced communications and software, these same improvements contain a fair measure of resiliency impacting improvements at the same time.