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Grid Resiliency: In these days of weather-related disruptions and restorations, how does one ensure the Electric Grid stays safe, reliable and functioning?

Civil-Structural Engineer , Confidential

Sriram Kalaga, Ph.D., PE, F.ASCE., SECB is a Civil-Structural Engineer based in Baltimore, Maryland. He specializes in the design of electrical transmission and distribution structures...

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To ensure the sustainability of the operation of the power system, it is necessary to develop measures to prepare for adverse events, weather or other disasters. Maintenance must be carried out in a timely and efficient manner. Personnel should be trained and trained in the containment and elimination of emergency situations. Also, emergency teams must be equipped with the necessary consumables and equipment. Unfortunately, in recent years, little attention has been paid to training and equipment and consumables. All this should be in groups, for example, overhead transmission lines, also for those who pass through

Seems to me the reliability of the grid starts with the generating facilities. Those resources need to employ a balanced mix of resources. Therein lies an accelerating problem, particularly when inherently unreliable resources are excessively employed.

Further, having to build more transmission resources to accommodate the growing unreliability of generating resources is not economically wise. Building new transmission lines is expensive while creating undue impacts on the environment.

Grid unreliability problems are largely limited to regions such as California that suffers from politically inflicted interference with sound management of the electrical grid.

Hi, it is my pleasure to attache herewith IEA's steps to that end :

1- Invest in electricity grids enforcement to make them more resilient to extreme weather.

2- Improve the efficiency of cooling equipment to reduce the peak demand and the hourly consumption to avoid load sheddings.

3- Enable the growth of flexible low-carbon power sources to support more solar and wind such as battery storage.

4- Increase other sources of electricity system flexibility such as demand-side response in the buildings sector. Regional integration of electricity systems across national borders will permit load shifting from one grid to another.

5- Accelerate the development and deployment of new technologies for forecasting and situation awareness of extreme weather threats.



Hi Sriram:

A week from today (Aug 19) I will post “PG&E Distribution Hardening”. I have basically completed this, but it is not scheduled for posting until next Thursday. In the interim, the primary reference that I used is described and linked below.

PG&E, “2021 Wildfire Mitigation Plan”,

The PG&E document is well over 1,000 pages long, so you may want to wait for the abridged version (my paper), which is only a bit over 3,000 words. I just cover distribution hardening in my paper, but the highest risk comes from distribution. The PG&E document also covers transmission (and many other thing).


Robert Raker's picture
Robert Raker on Aug 19, 2021


When do you plan on posting the abridged version?


Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 19, 2021

Impeccable timing-- John posted it today:

Grid reliability is the US is very high: 99.97% as reported by the Galvin Institute and supported by reliability matrices such as SAIDI and SAIFI. These matrices typically discount major system-damaging wind or ice storms or events like wildfires, floods, etc. 


Grid resiliency is the ability to withstand such “high impact-low probability” events with little or no customer outages.  


While we can never “ensure” grid resiliency, planners and engineers can certainly improve reliability and resiliency in many ways to include pole hardening with steel or concrete, greater phase spacing, covered conductors, and undergrounding. 


Undergrounding is becoming increasingly popular especially as the industry evaluates the “life cycle” costs of OH vs UG. 


The cost of 21st century design and construction of underground is coming down with new technologies, means and methods.  Empirical data reported on the FERC Form 1 shows that utilities spend significantly less money on the O&M of underground electric systems versus their overhead systems. Underground clearly has advantages.  Learn more with my whitepaper entitled “The Case for Underground Distribution” at



Thanks for the great question. The industry is responding!

Ben Lanz's picture
Ben Lanz on Aug 9, 2021

I agree with Mike Beehler. Where there is risk of repeated weather/natural disaster damage, options, such as better automated configuration, distributed generation, poles, insulation and spacing should be evaluated, but strategic undergrounding may be the only permanent solution to ensure resiliency.

Sriram, I am going to focus directly on the three critical elements of your question and that is: Safety, Reliability, and Resiliency, which are the most important aspects of managing and operating the grid. Safety ensures that no equipment or personnel damage will be done while operating and maintaining the grid particularly when you integrate renewables, battery storage, microgrids, or add grid automation technologies. Even though we consider DERs as clean and sustainable technologies, they do generate power quality problems such as harmonics because most DERs are inverter-based technologies. So, that impacts the reliability of your system. Reliability has two important parts. One is power quality and the second is reliability indices which are associated with outage duration, frequency, service availability, etc. The vendors or the sellers of DER technologies will hardly ever talk about the power quality issues that these DERs can generate because they think that utility is responsible for taking care of this issue. DER resources can be used very effectively in managing the reliability and resiliency of the system, especially during power outage situations. Battery storage and microgrids are one of the great DER technologies available today to tackle this issue. Today, DERs are tripped offline during power outages. And they don’t need to if you have a microgrid (solar PV, battery, etc.) configuration at each residential level or at the neighborhood level which can further improve the resiliency of the system. Planners need to find out some strategic locations on the feeder where battery storage can be deployed or have mobile battery storage available in the event when there is a power outage.

Engineering and power system studies are of utmost importance to ensure that the feeder has enough hosting capacity. The location of the DERs on the feeder also matters and that needs to be evaluated properly to ensure that it will not create any power quality issues. The grounding of the system both during grid-connected and islanding mode needs to be studied and implemented with appropriate measures to avoid overvoltage and/or other power quality issues. 

In my opinion, the reliability and resiliency of the system can be further improved with the adoption of DER technologies, however, more detailed planning and engineering studies need to be performed before we deploy these innovative solutions.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 8, 2021

"The vendors or the sellers of DER technologies will hardly ever talk about the power quality issues that these DERs can generate because they think that utility is responsible for taking care of this issue."

Agree, Manish. But because their understanding of grid dynamics is typically limited, what vendors of DER technologies believe isn't particularly helpful in discussions of policy anyway.

"Battery storage and microgrids are one of the great DER technologies available today to tackle this issue."

Though battery storage and microgrids may be available today, they're affordable to less than 10% of the U.S. population and far less in other countries. As a "designer" accessory for the rich, they represent no practical solution to grid reliability for the most vulnerable members of society.

"In my opinion, the reliability and resiliency of the system can be further improved with the adoption of DER technologies..."

Here we disagree. Engineers of all persuasions know overall reliability of any system suffers when it's segmented unnecessarily, reflected in the well-known acronym "KISS" (for "Keep It Simple, Stupid").

This is a loaded question! I'll attempt to answer this in two ways. First is that utility leaders and regulators need to remember and really commit to their original mission, which despite changes in technologies and markets, hasn't really changed much: providing affordable, reliable, safe electricity (and yes, many have added "sustainable" to their mission statements - more on this in a minute). Their funding, staffing, and personal efforts should reflect this. Frankly, I think that as an industry we have gotten away from this and we are seeing the results...the examples of this - some tragic - are too many to list here, but as a Californian I see these all around me. 

Second, maintaining grid reliability in the coming years is going to be all about how well a utility is able embrace and deploy the necessary technologies to manage the grid in a DER-rich environment (this is the "sustainable" part of their mission statements). The DER-driven changes coming to the grid are mind-boggling. Fortunately there are technologies that have emerged, with some successes behind them, to help manage this new operating environment, most notably DERMS and Net Load Forecasting.

It is possible to operate the grid reliably and safely today while planning for the future. Utilities have been doing this for decades, but of course now the playing field is changing. The utility industry needs to be nimble enough to balance today's needs without compromising its future.

SRIRAM KALAGA on Aug 11, 2021


The origin of the question of mine came in a debate on the aftermath of what happened in Texas during the recent ice storm which left the entire state powerless. There are several reasons for Texas' problems; the most obvious is their lack of interconnection to the national grid. During the debate we also faced questions about using "smarter" materials like composites and define grid resiliency in terms of pole reliability against failure. The urgency of the situation also came to the fore as we learnt that the average speed of coastal hurricanes is increasing year by year... a direct result of climate change. These are just a few aspects of the concept of "Grid Resiliency" and every opinion expressed here will contribute handsomely to a better understanding of the term. I am grateful to everyone who contributed to this forum on Energy Central. 


Michael Smith's picture
Michael Smith on Aug 13, 2021

Sriram: Just wondering if you have heard about or read "Unsetttled" by Steven Koonin, a former Obama admin official. Pretty thought-provoking r.e., claims about climate change trends.

For what it's worth, I think that the bigger issue for us to consider is a rush to renewables causing a neglect of basic operations and engineering. I am an all-of-the-above proponent vis-a-vis the generation mix, but the rush to renewables has undoubtedly greatly contributed to some of the major incidents over the last few years. The data supports this.

By the way, as we move towards a more renewable future I think that long duration storage is one of the missing links in greatly reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. Nuclear is the other piece of this puzzle.

Thanks, --Mike

By allowing more distributed energy resources and behind the meter generation to participate in the wholesale energy markets. That's how I see this happening.

Aggregators have so much experience aggregating distributed energy resources including demand response. We need to allow aggregators provide operating reserves in the market place.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 6, 2021

Rao, it's a common misperception, but aggregators have nothing to do with grid reliability. They have no control over grid operations at all - they sell plans to consumers. They have no idea what mix of electricity their customers are consuming at a given time of the day (it's never "100% solar", as many plans promise).

On any system grid, everyone gets the same mix of electricity (except home solar owners) - that's physics. If a customer has bought a "100% solar" plan but it's nighttime, they get electricity that's primarily generated by natural gas, nuclear, or coal plants. Aggregators claim they can make up for this deception by buying renewable energy credits (RECs) from solar farms - but the credits are immediately sold to fossil fuel generators, who use their "environmental attributes" - fictitious entities invented by solar panel marketers - to meet minimum requirements of clean energy for their states' Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPSs). With this arrangement, two entities take credit for the same renewable energy - the aggregator and the fossil fuel generator - and no one takes responsibility for the CO2 that was emitted by generating the customer's electricity.

In 2008, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission stipulated in a notice on the Federal Register that selling "100% solar" plans, promising all of a consumer's electricity will be generated by solar energy, constitutes fraud. Why hasn't it been prosecuted? Your guess is as good as mine, but my guess is there's so much money in selling fake renewable energy plans, and so much money in selling "cleaned" natural gas, the FTC is under pressure to look the other way. After all, jobs are at stake, and jobs improve the economy - even if those jobs are selling diamonds made of glass.

Rao Konidena's picture
Rao Konidena on Aug 26, 2021

Hi Bob

This blog posting caught my eye on the role of demand response and aggregators, 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 26, 2021

Rao, I love how renewables advocates try to portray forcing the responsibility of providing reliable power, traditionally handled by utilities, on customers.

They say "demand/response" programs save customers money. Actually no, they don't. What happens, invariably, is that utilities raise rates, then customers are forced to use electricity at inopportune times to merely keep the rate they had before their utility raised it. Whether a financial cost or a cost in convenience, demand/response programs create no added value for electricity customers.

That's worsened by renewables, particularly solar, because they aren't available during peak demand - when electricity is most valuable in early evening hours.

Now NRDC is asking FERC for permission to sell not-electricity - the value of electricity we don't use during peak demand - as if it has value to anyone else. This absurd construct is typical of NRDC, which has significant investments in natural gas - the "other" fossil fuel quickly making zero-emissions goals impossible to achieve. Why? Because it's All. About. Selling. More. Gas.

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