The Future of Energy Depends on Building Grid Resilience Today

Today’s electric grid is growing in demand as energy needs increase. Here’s why the future of energy and infrastructure depends on increased grid resilience.

Air Date: January 19, 2022

Moderator: Martin Durbin, Senior Vice President, Policy, Ruth Demeter, Senior Policy Director, Global Energy Institute, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Heath Knakmuhs, Vice President and Policy Counsel, Global Energy Institute

Featured Guests: Bob Latta, Congressman (R-OH-5), United States House of Representatives, Mark Christie, Commissioner, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Tim Holt, Labor Director and Acting Head of Transmission, Siemens Energy, Scott Aaronson, Vice President, Security and Preparedness, Edison Electric Institute, Richie O’Neill, Executive Director, GridWise Alliance, Barbara Tyran, Director, Macro Grid Initiative

As the global population increasingly relies on technological advancements, the demand for energy has never been greater. To keep up with growing energy needs, industry and government leaders must work together to build a more resilient, sustainable electrical grid.

During a U.S. Chamber of Commerce EnergyInnovates panel on grid resilience, experts discussed some key energy issues facing the modern world. Here’s how they envision a lower-carbon electricity future and how they believe the grid and its infrastructure can be changed for the better.

A More Secure Grid Will Help Keep Up With Modern Changes

Congressman Bob Latta, R-OH5, kicked off the discussion by describing ways in which the demand for energy has changed. As the world continues to advance and utilize more electricity, Latta believes the infrastructure currently in place for the nation’s electric grid needs to be reconfigured to add increased security measures.

“We have to make sure that we have reliability out there,” Latta said. “When you think about what's happened in the last several years with our cyber attacks that have occurred… and the danger that poses out there, we have to make sure on the cyber side that we're doing everything we possibly can.”

In a search for new, reliable sources of energy, zero-carbon emissions alternatives are being considered and studied.

“I've been working on different areas on the nuclear side, especially advanced nuclear, to make sure that we advance it and get it out there because it's an area where we can really achieve great things here in the United States,” Latta said.

Transmission Lines Must Be Built to Serve Consumers

Mark Christie, commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, detailed how building new transmission lines should be handled throughout the country when exploring transmission planning.

“If a transmission line is needed, then it should be built, but need ought to be based on hard data about threats to reliability or congestion costs,” Christie said. “It shouldn't be based on speculation about what might benefit a certain group of developers in 10 years or 20 years,”

However, there are costs associated with building a transmission line, warned Christie.

“My key principle is this: transmission should be built to serve consumers, not some preferred category of developers,” he said. “Consumers, of course, include manufacturers.”

Summarizing, Christie added, “transmission planning ought to be about one thing – delivering reliable power at the least cost.”

The Private Sector Is Contributing to Grid Resilience

Tim Holt, labor director and acting head of transmission at Siemens Energy, said building grid resilience is

“all about modernizing and upgrading the aging infrastructure to … increase reliability and safety” and ultimately prepare it for the future.

“We look at replacements, we look at retrofits and refurbishment and new investments,” Holt said. “All of them are necessary, and we work with our customers in several ways to address this aging infrastructure.”

“We have a resilience concept that's called Pretact,” he added. “It's about three pillars, [which] are preventing, protecting, and reacting. Without resiliency, there is no reliability, and without reliability, the economy and the society do not function.”

Visions for the Expansion of the Power Grid

Scott Aaronson, vice president of Security and Preparedness at the Edison Electric Institute, Richie O’Neill, executive director at GridWise Alliance and Barbara Tyran, director at Macro Grid Initiative talked with Heath Knakmuhs, vice president and policy counsel at the Global Energy Institute of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, about their visions for the future of the power grid.

“We have 30 organizations … [that] have signed on to the Macro Grid Initiative Vision Statement,” said Tyran. “We need an expanded and enhanced transmission delivery system that will enable us to have more jobs and economic development, reduce the cost of electricity to consumers and provide a cleaner environment.”

Looking at states with an overabundance of renewable energy, Aaronson discussed ways in which that energy can be distributed further.

“Have a platform that can enable the affordable, clean, reliable, and resilient energy grid that we all rely on,” he said.

Similarly, O’Neill highlighted the coordinated efforts which are “enabling states and local areas to be able to accept these investments that are coming and really upgrade their grid quickly.”