NERC reports on industry’s preparedness for the pandemic

Published on April 27, 2020 by Dave Kovaleski

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The North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) reviewed the reliability considerations and operational preparedness during the coronavirus pandemic in a new report.

The report – titled Pandemic Preparedness and Operational Assessment: Spring 2020 – funds that while the pandemic introduces significant uncertainty and challenges, including workforce disruptions, supply chain interruptions, and increased cybersecurity threats. These factors have elevated the industry’s risk profile, but it has risen to the challenge by coordinating with government partners and taking steps to confront grid reliability.

NERC has not identified any specific threat or degradation to the reliable operation of the bulk power system. However, as pandemic mitigation strategies continue, prolonged periods of operator sequestration and deferred equipment maintenance could exacerbate impacts on the bulk power system during the summer months.

“Industry appears well-positioned for spring operations and is currently preparing for the summer period, which we will focus on in our upcoming Summer Reliability Assessment next month,” John Moura, director of Reliability Assessment and Performance Analysis, said. “While we have not identified any specific threat to the reliable operation of grid, we are in unprecedented territory and must continue to be prepared for the cumulative unknowns that are increasing industry’s risk profile.”

The Electric Reliability Organization (ERO) Enterprise, which is made up of NERC and the six Regional Entities, is coordinating with regulators and government officials to assure the reliability of the bulk power system. As the pandemic unfolds, the ERO Enterprise will continue to work to identify reliability implications and lessons learned.

The report said the fundamental risk is the loss of staff critical to operating and maintaining the bulk power system. To mitigate this risk, industry leaders are asking regulators and government agencies to make COVID-19 testing available for essential personnel who work in shift environments. Further, the industry is seeking relief from certain regulatory obligations to ensure the continued availability of control room operators. Also, industry leaders are asking that supplies for cleaning/hygiene are readily available.

NERC noted that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the ERO Enterprise are using regulatory discretion to advise all registered entities that they will consider the impact of the coronavirus outbreak in complying with certain Reliability Standards.

NERC’s 2020 Summer Reliability Assessment will provide a further update when it is released in May.