Vermont Law School Team to Research Electrical Grid Security

Friday, June 22, 2018
Vermont Law School TeamTo Research Electric Grid Security

South Royalton — The Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School — which provides resources on energy law and policy — will begin researching grid security and resilience issues in order to prepare a position on best-practices for grid security.

The research is part of a partnership with Protect Our Power, an independent, nonprofit organization whose mission is to build consensus among government, industry and other key stakeholders to strengthen the nation’s electric grid in order to make it more resistant to physical or cyber threats and to improve its ability to restore power quickly in the event of an attack.

The research project will focus on identifying a model approach for state electric utility commissions and the utilities they regulate to use to facilitate timely grid upgrades, including identifying a financial structure for sharing the costs of upgrades. The project will also assess opportunities for state governments to advance grid security and resilience by providing initiatives.

“The electric grid is a complex physical system largely governed by a complex state-by-state regulatory system,” Jim Cunningham, executive director of Protect Our Power, said in a news release. “We are asking (the Institute for Energy and the Environment) to help us develop a streamlined, model approach that can be used in every state to properly incentivize the utility companies and assure complete recovery of costs associated with improving grid resiliency now. The framework will provide needed uniformity throughout the states and help the regulatory agencies make timely decisions on both the need and the cost recovery for those upgrades.”

The cost of making critical grid improvements nationally will be significant, according to Cunningham, so bringing clarity and predictability to the process is critical in ensuring that those costs are shared equitably by the federal government, the utility companies and consumers.

The research team will be led by Mark James, assistant professor of energy law and a senior research fellow. James recently led a team that produced a white paper on the governance and market efficiency of regional electric transmission organizations, which coordinate, control and monitor multi-state electric grids.

“We’re pleased to partner with Protect Our Power to work on the critical issue of grid security,” James said. “We know the grid is under attack on the cyber front every day, and a natural disaster can occur at any time, so charting a path forward for state legislators, state utility regulators, and utilities to take necessary actions will be a very positive step.”

The initial report will be delivered to Protect Our Power by December. During the second phase of the project, researchers will turn their findings and recommendations into draft model state legislation for grid security and resilience improvements.

“As a former utility power market policy leader myself, I understand the need for state leadership on these critical grid infrastructure issues, and I am confident that state regulators will appreciate the results of our work,” said Kevin Jones, director of the Institute for Energy and the Environment.