Hurricanes, blizzards, and other extreme weather events are occurring with increasing frequency due to climate change. Such events have had a tremendous impact on the electric industry, especially on the distribution system that delivers electricity to homes and businesses. Recent evidence can be found in Maryland where a June derecho storm left 900,000 Marylanders without electricity for extended periods of time and brought on the declaration of a stage of emergency.
The deadly storm, which ultimately led to the death of 22 nation-wide, prompted Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley to sign an Executive Order directing state offices, experts, and agencies to form a task force to analyze the options and draft a report on recommendations for improving the resiliency and reliability of Maryland’s electrical distribution system. The Task Force held a number of days of hearings, at which the Energy Future Coalition’s John Jimison and Reid Detchon both testified on utility transition issues. The report was completed in October, and can be found here. Of course, the derecho was not the sole catalyst behind these efforts, but the report does represent an important step towards Maryland’s hedging of the inherent risks of climate change.
The report presents 11 technology, infrastructure, regulatory, and process recommendations for improving grid reliability and resiliency, as well as a 4-step plan for implementation of these recommendations. The recommendations include such ideas as improved reporting on major outage events, accelerating current investments in the improvement of reliability metrics, and determining cost-effective future investments, greater levels of information sharing, and performing joint reliability exercises between the state and utilities.
Of particular note is the 11th recommendation, which recommends that the Governor task us, the Energy Future Coalition, with developing a Utility 2.0 pilot proposal. While still in its very early stages of development, our Utility 2.0 program is intended to create a road map for a paradigm shift in business models of Maryland utilities to incentivize reliability, distributed generation, and energy efficiency while accommodating a new technology architecture in electric service and control, embracing a new customer relationship and competitive entry in customer services, and yet still earning a return on investment for their shareholders. It is our ultimate hope that not only will this proposal revamp electricity service positively in the state of Maryland, but also prove scalable to become a model for other states to follow.
Ultimately, EFC wants to see true improvement in the United States electricity grid. There are definite challenges ahead, but rather than wait for them to happen as a function of uncontrolled technological, competitive, and political forces, it is our hope that we can reach consensus on a path to manage the transition through them, minimizing disruption and economic loss.
The press release of the report can be found here.
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