U.S. Power Grid Reliability

We look at OE-417 data

U.S. Power Grid Reliability
Photo by Matthew Henry / Unsplash
California recently flirted with rolling blackouts due to record heat and record electricity demand

Part of the state action plan to deal with high demand was demand response programs and flex alerts, requesting customers conserve energy to ensure grid reliability

Electric grid security and reliability is a focus for the Department of Energy (DOE)

The DOE requires mandatory submissions from utility companies and grid operators to report on electric disturbance events, including public appeals to reduce energy usage similar to what we just witnessed in California

We sort through the data to see if any trends emerge

Electric Emergency Incident and Disturbance Report

The Electric Emergency Incident and Disturbance Report (Form OE-417) collects information on electric incidents and emergencies. The DOE collects and utilizes the information to help ensure overall national security and to effectively manage energy emergency responsibilities.

Electric utilities that operate as Control Area Operators and/or Reliability Authorities are required to file the form, which is a mandatory filing whenever disturbances are sufficiently large enough to cross reporting thresholds.

Emergency Alerts must be filed within 1 hour of the incident

1. Physical attack that causes major interruptions or impacts to critical infrastructure or to operations

2. Reportable Cyber Security Incident

3. Cyber event that is not a Reportable Cyber Security Incident that causes interruptions of electrical system operations.

4. Complete operational failure or shut down of the transmission and/or distribution electrical system

5. Electrical System Separation (Islanding) where part or parts of a power grid remain(s) operational in an otherwise blacked out area or within the partial failure of an integrated electrical system

6. Uncontrolled loss of 300 Megawatts or more of firm system loads for 15 minutes or more from a single incident

7. Firm load shedding of 100 Megawatts or more implemented under emergency operational policy

8. System-wide voltage reductions of 3 percent or more

9. Public appeal to reduce the use of electricity for purposes of maintaining the continuity of the Bulk Electric System

Normal Reports must be filed within 6 hours of the incident

10. Physical attack that could potentially impact electric power system adequacy or reliability; or vandalism which targets components of any security systems

11. Cyber event that could potentially impact electric power system adequacy or reliability

12. Loss of electric service to more than 50,000 customers for 1 hour or more

13. Fuel supply emergencies that could impact electric power system adequacy or reliability

We dug through the available OE-417 data since 2000, but decided to focus on data from 2011 to June 2022 for more consistent reporting methodology. Form OE-417 submissions generally include data and time of incident, duration of incident, utility or power pool, NERC region, areas affected, type of disturbance, loss (megawatts) and number of customers affected.  We acknowledge the submissions can often have missing fields but we utilized a consistent methodology to analyze and calculate metrics.

2,600 recorded incidents from 2011 through the first half of 2022 were analyzed.

Despite the global power market crisis, OE-417 data suggests the first half of 2022 saw significantly fewer incidents than in recent years.  Broadly speaking, there is little current data from these reports suggesting an increasingly renewable grid in the U.S. is causing additional disturbances.  

Indeed, annualizing the first half data implies 2022 was on pace for the lowest number of reported incidents since 2017, the fewest public appeals for lower electricity usage to maintain the grid since 2013 and the fewest customers impacted per incident over the entire analysis period.

Weather-related incidents and disturbances have accounted for 48% of total line items over the last six years versus 36% the prior six years.  If any conclusions can be reached from the OE-417 data it is that weather is increasingly volatile and causing additional stress on the U.S. power grid.

We'll monitor the data as the back half of 2022 is disclosed, but there appears to be little correlation currently to renewable mix and incident statistics