Building a Climate Change Resilient Electric Grid
New Orleans is first on the list of U.S. cities that will be most impacted by climate change in the next 20-50 years, which makes its Smart and Sustainable Cities Committee’s efforts to develop a more efficient, reliable, and resilient electric grid so critically important. Because the effects of climate change are cumulative and hard to quickly mitigate, the difficulties presented to utilities will continue to grow, challenging electric providers to maintain service in spite of supply chain, extreme weather events, and more to power our communities.
A Modern Example of the Effects of Climate Change on Utilities
Pumps and levees sometimes fail and did so catastrophically in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina, but often it’s the electric grid that fails in the Crescent City. According to a technical advisors’ report submitted to the Council of the City of New Orleans on October 31, 2017, there were 2,599 power outages reported between June 1, 2016, and May 31, 2017. That’s an average of seven outages every day, and more than half were not related to weather. And when the pumps don’t work due to equipment malfunction or weather, the typical solution is to crank up generators to restore power. In a city that’s already below sea level and gravely threatened by climate change, spewing diesel fuel into the environment only compounds the problem.
On January 15, the New Orleans City Council and Louisiana’s Alliance for Affordable Energy invited national experts, including Virtual Peaker, Northern Reliability, Sonnen, and others to a “Solar and Storage Day” to share the latest technological innovations. The goal was to gain a better understanding of how batteries, renewables, and software solutions can help make New Orleans’ grid not only more efficient and distributed but more resilient. And adopting a broader distributed energy strategy also would help New Orleans reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.\
DERs & Grid Resilience
With the increasing penetration of renewable energy sources like rooftop solar and other distributed energy resources (DERs), the rise of electric vehicles (EVs) and their requisite charging needs, and declining energy sales for traditional sources, the power grid is being fundamentally disrupted. Harnessing energy demand requires integration at the homeowner level, with real-time analytics and a seamless interface between customers and utilities. Controllable through the right distributed energy resource management system (DERMS), distributed energy resources reduce operational costs, increase resiliency, and improve the customer experience.
Conclusion Building a Climate-Change Resilient Electric Grid
Proactively looking at the future of an increasingly resilient electric grid, even if from the perspective of being below sea level, New Orleans’ leadership realizes that its goal to ensure a low-carbon future requires effective demand flexibility tools now. To find out more about how New Orleans’ Smart and Sustainable Cities Committee is seeking to develop a more resilient electric grid, click here for the agenda with embedded presentations.