focus on key issues relevant to making the grid sufficiently robust that it could handle inevitable failures without disastrous impact.
The workshop took place at the National Academy of Sciences on February 27-28, 2013, as part of the dissemination of the committee’s work. Ralph Cicerone, President of the National Academy of Sciences, noted at the start of the workshop that new needs and desires are developing in electrical power distribution, and that it is the responsibility of the NRC to ensure that the work of the committee is as timely and relevant as possible, despite the delayed public release of its report. Building on the committee’s report, the workshop focused on physical vulnerabilities and the cybersecurity of the grid as well as ways in which communities respond to widespread outages and how to minimize these impacts. Finally, the workshop also touched on the grid of tomorrow and how resilience can be encouraged and built into the grid in the future.
Granger Morgan, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), chair of the committee that authored Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System,3 noted at the outset of the workshop that although that report may have focused on “attacks,” 80 to 90 percent of the discussion in the report is relevant to vulnerabilities beyond terrorism. Given the increasing probability that severe weather events are occurring owing to climate change, there was a great amount of discussion on how to begin to assess the vulnerabilities to these nonterrorist events moving forward.
David Kaufman, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), noted that planning tends to assume current capacity and further assumes that events in the future will be similar to ones in the past. While this is a useful starting point, it is crucial to understand outcomes that can break the system. As 100-year floods become 50- or even 20-year floods, how should adjustments be made? According to Mr. Kaufman, even if one is able to acknowledge the risk, it is difficult to determine how to address it and who will be responsible for the costs.
Gerald Galloway, University of Maryland, noted that insurance agencies are beginning to recognize that catastrophic occurrences are becoming increasingly frequent as global climate change continues to alter weather patterns, and they are starting to factor this into their risk assessment models. While Hurricane Sandy may have been the most recent natural disaster to broadly impact national infrastructure, he also pointed to the tsunami in Japan that led the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear disaster in 2012 and the impact of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina on the Gulf Coast in 2005 as catastrophic events that have led to major upheaval. In 2011 alone, Dr. Galloway noted, $55 billion in economic damage was due to weather events in the United States, with 14 events causing more than $1 billion in damage each. He said that no person or place is immune to these events.
3 National Research Council, 2012, Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System.