Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a provision requested by Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10) as part of the Energy and Water Appropriations Act of 2015, which would dedicate $1 million to the study of the nation's electric grid and determine actions to be taken to strengthen, modernize, and upgrade the nation's power systems to better withstand natural disasters and cyber attacks.
Congressman Payne, Jr. has been a continued advocate for modernizing the nation's power grid and introduced the measure in response to the massive damage to the power grid following Hurricane Sandy. "In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc up and down the east coast, including in my home state of New Jersey. Hurricane Sandy carried an estimated price tag of anywhere between $40 billion and $52 billion. But this isn't just an issue facing New Jersey," said Rep. Payne, Jr. According to the Department of Energy, between 2003 and 2012, close to 700 power outages occurred due to weather related events, costing the nation an annual average of $18 billion to $33 billion.
"Our nation's electric grid needs an upgrade, and it is important we invest our resources into research now to save billions in recovery relief down the road," continued Rep. Payne, Jr. "That's why I am pleased that Congress has included a study I have proposed that would examine ways to strengthen and upgrade our electric grid system while improving our domestic energy capabilities."
"The National Electrical Manufacturers Association is pleased the House has approved this important study," said NEMA President and CEO Evan R. Gaddis. "Congressman Payne has demonstrated consistent leadership on this issue which is critical to the resilience and reliability of our electricity delivery system."
"The SMART Grid Study Act will fund necessary research into strengthening our nation's electric grid," said Dan Delurey, Executive Director of the Demand Response and Smart Grid Coalition (DRSG). "It will help shape the policies and strategies necessary to accelerate the transition that is underway towards a smarter, more resilient grid -- one that can better respond to severe weather, integrate renewable energy and distributed generation, provide customers with information about their electricity usage, and make the electric sector more efficient overall."
The study would not only examine ways to make the grid more resilient and energy efficient, it would also investigate the vulnerabilities of the grid to cyber attacks and propose ways to better defend against these increasing intrusions.
"In the 21st Century, our power systems are exposed to cyber attacks more than ever before. Our power grid is essential to our financial, our water, our wastewater, and our telecommunications systems. An attack on our grid could cause a domino effect that greatly and negatively impacts our economy. This is the new form of terrorism that we will have to confront and defend against now and well into the future. This study will provide a roadmap for Congress to take actions that will protect and defend our critical infrastructure for generations to come."
The applicable language included in the Committee report is as follows on page 103:
"The Committee recognizes the value an independent assessment may have to verify, criticize, and reinforce key issues within the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability's mission to support the nation's electricity delivery system. Within available funds for Clean Energy Transmission and Reliability, up to $1,000,000 shall be for the Department to contract with an appropriate organization, such as the National Research Council, to conduct a national level comprehensive study on the future resilience and reliability of the nation's electric power transmission and distribution system. At a minimum, the report should include technological options for strengthening the capabilities of the nation's power grid; a review of federal, State, industry, and academic research and development programs; and an evaluation of cyber security for energy delivery systems. Not later than September 30, 2015, the Department shall submit the findings to the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Senate."