The Grid During a Pandemic
Resource planning is critical to preparedness; under a pandemic, though, the main concern across all organizations involved in grid operations isn’t whether the grid will have enough generating capacity and demand response participants to power the system, but rather whether enough essential personnel will be healthy and available to perform their critical functions. According to ABC News, New York’s Independent System Operator (NYISO) is taking very admirable and extreme steps to ensure the power stays on by sequestering essential employees on-site in RVs and trailers.
Utility personnel, power plant operators, and other market participants must also perform their essential functions in order to prevent grid disruption, such as conducting routine maintenance and repairs of infrastructure. These individuals are risking their health and safety under extreme circumstances, and deserve supreme appreciation. Just as severe weather, like hurricanes and snow storms, can threaten the continuity of the grid, so too can non-weather related events, like cyber-attacks or – under truly extreme circumstances – pandemics. In addition, these scenarios could even overlap in timing, as Maine recently experienced when a powerful spring snowstorm cut power to 260,000 electricity customers during the pandemic, causing many businesses and residents to desperately await power restoration for days.
Resilient Organizations Prosper
What the coronavirus reminds us is that across all arenas and in many aspects of life – whether it’s at the individual, institutional, or societal level – we need to appreciate the real possibility of downside events. Since many of these scenarios are simply too unusual or improbable to foresee, organizations that focus on building resilient systems capable of withstanding downside events and thriving during upside events – rather than trying to predict the exact nature and timing of each possible downside event – are most likely to prosper.
In the context of energy management, this means thinking through backup plans for powering facilities when the grid goes down due to unforeseeable circumstances. Certain solutions, such as energy storage, solar-plus-storage, and microgrids, offer added resiliency in the event of downside scenarios, and additional revenue streams during normal grid operations. Ultimately, risk planning serves a critical function in modern businesses, and ironically one of the most vital and yet overlooked areas of business operations that deserves careful consideration is one that we often take most for granted: electricity.