The National Academy of Engineering has called the American power grid the “supreme engineering achievement of the 20th century.” A network of generation, transmission and distribution, the grid brings reliable and affordable electricity virtually all the time to virtually all Americans, providing a service essential to the nation’s economy, security and wellbeing. But the structure and management of the grid are both changing rapidly. Information technology and increasingly networked systems, distributed generation and more intermittent energy sources, smart grids and new technologies that link our appliances, cars, and smartphones to the grid, provide great benefits but also pose potential risks. Threats of cybersecurity, physical security, natural disasters must be addressed, as well as local opposition to new infrastructure and simply aging infrastructure and limited resources. All of these make maintaining the reliability and affordability of electricity services a daunting challenge.
On this episode of Columbia energy Exchange, host Jason Bordoff sits down with Cheryl LaFleur, Commissioner at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the grid today. Among the topics of they address:
- What is the state of the US electric grid today?
- What is the role of FERC and the federal system in terms of electricity regulation?
- How do changes in information technology and networked systems impact cybersecurity risks? What role is FERC playing to improve the security of a digital grid?
- How is the penetration of renewable energy in the resource mix changing the economics of electricity?
- Are there new or different reliability issues as a result of the increased use of natural gas in the power sector?
- What role can or should the Federal government play to mitigate physical risks to the grid, whether from natural disasters, extreme weather or simply aging infrastructure?
- And many more.