Microgrids and distributed generation could play a central role in protecting the U.S. electricity system from security threats, according to Jon Wellinghoff, former chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
“People are beginning to understand that they need their own onsite capabilities to island themselves from the grid,” Wellinghoff said in a recent interview. “That’s because the grid’s external vulnerabilities will continue to be a problem until we do have substantial amounts of distributed generation.”
The power industry’s “outdated hub-and-spoke architecture” is “highly vulnerable to attacks at multiple points, and failures at critical nodes could create cascading failures and widespread power outages,” Dodge writes. Beyond the security risk, “mother nature and heavy weather cause the vast majority of damage to electric distribution. Snow, storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, ice all put extensive wear on the grid, causing thousands of hours of outages every year, [and] costing billions of dollars in maintenance and repair.”
Wellinghoff and other power system specialists believe “the best way to harden the grid against attacks is to reimagine and re-architect the grid into a national system of distributed grids, or microgrids,” Dodge adds.