The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) hosted a forum on Capitol Hill to highlight the need for a national approach to post-storm reconstruction that focuses on preparedness and reconstruction for stronger and more efficient electrical systems.
Participants included legislators, congressional staff, and business leaders whose mission is to employ smart technologies that can make America’s power systems safer, reliable, resilient, and more readily restored following a disaster like Superstorm Sandy. They support recommendations outlined by NEMA in its publication Storm Reconstruction: Rebuild Smart.
“While no disaster is predictable or preventable, we do have the tools and technology to mitigate the damage and distress that storms like Sandy can cause,” said NEMA President and CEO Evan R. Gaddis. “Being prepared and employing existing strategies help ensure the resilience and reliability of our critical power supplies.”
Opening the panel on the lasting impact of Sandy, Rep. Peter King (NY-2), a member of the House Emergency Preparedness Subcommittee, described the devastation the hurricane caused in New York, and agreed the disaster offers valuable lessons on where improvements are needed.
Rep. King stressed that while it’s necessary to repair the damage resulting from Superstorm Sandy, it’s essential to consider future storms in the rebuilding process and integrate smart technologies that can make our power grid more resilient.
“Funding put into mitigation now is more important than ever,” King noted. He further expressed expectations that every dollar spent on mitigation could save as much as four dollars in a future recovery effort.
Public policies also play an important role in advancing the move to smarter preparedness and rebuilding, Gaddis told the Capitol Hill audience.
Referencing two Senate proposals, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act and the SAVE Act, he said, “NEMA supports regulations and legislation that encourage investment in smarter energy technologies.” In addition, he said that NEMA urges the administration to extend and expand the current Energy Savings Performance Contracts program operated by the Department of Energy to promote installation of Smart Grid technologies across government and private sectors.
Don Hendler, president and CEO of Leviton Manufacturing, discussed advances in electrical technology that were not available when many hurricane-destroyed properties were built. Citing his own company as an example, he noted that technologies shielded the headquarters that lay in Sandy’s path.
“As a technology company in a recently commissioned facility, we were probably better prepared than others, but there are lessons from the Leviton experience that everyone can benefit from,” Hendler said. “The use of microgrids, energy storage, and backup generation are among the many Smart Grid technologies that take advantage of sensor and communications advances to deliver more reliable and resilient power to ensure that we are prepared for the next storm.”
Also important is that smart rebuilding should include strengthening the cyber-security of power systems. “We have to be equally diligent in terms of natural and man-made threats to the grid,” Hendler stated. The importance of following the latest electrical standards to improve safety was emphasized by Brett Brenner, president of the Electrical Safety Foundation International, who explained the rigorous updating of the National Electrical Code®, which is adopted by states and municipalities across the country.
“Believe it or not, in every three-year code cycle there are literally thousands of changes,” Brenner noted. “Given the death and destruction from this storm, there’s no doubt that the 2014 revisions to the code will be influenced by Superstorm Sandy.”