Frequently asked questions

Why is there a need for Grid Assurance?

A reliable, resilient transmission grid is vitally important to the economic and social well-being of our nation. While electric utilities have always planned for recovery from network disruptions, recent events have shown that type, frequency and impact of events have increased to the point where traditional recovery models are no longer adequate to restore service.

Significant grid outages, including planned and executed physical attacks and extreme weather events, demonstrate the vulnerability of the grid and the impact that outages can have on our communities, states and the nation.

The increasing frequency, likelihood and severity of these events demand that transmission owners maintain executable plans that address recovery from significant grid outages in the most cost-effective way to restore power quickly. A key element of an executable plan is the certainty that assets are available for such an event and that they are securely stored, deliverable and in working condition with known costs. A group of energy companies, with geographic and technical diversity, launched Grid Assurance to provide an industry-led grid recovery solution that addresses this urgent need to address the new emerging threats to the nation’s critical infrastructure.

What types of scenarios does Grid Assurance plan for?

Grid Assurance supports the broadest range of significant grid outage events including extreme weather events precipitated by climate change, physical attacks, cyberattacks, geomagnetic disturbances, electromagnetic pulses and acts of war or terrorism.

Its solution framework considers many attributes including the location, type, frequency and severity of the event; diversity in equipment rating; operational spares on hand; and restoration at an agreed-upon service fulfillment level.

Grid Assurance provides the modeling tools to its subscribers to execute and simulate impacts and recommendations. Modeling helps determine the number and type of equipment a subscriber will need following a high impact low frequency event specific to their location and service level.

What does “good” look like for grid recovery?

Grid Assurance believes the best way to be prepared for a significant grid outage is to have an executable plan that addresses a broad range of events. Foundational to this plan is immediate access to or control of a dedicated inventory of difficult-to-obtain equipment that is vital to the operation of the grid for these types of events.

This ensures assets are available, deliverable and operational at the time of the significant grid outage and can be expeditiously delivered to the impacted sites. Many industries, including healthcare, nuclear power, oil drilling and military, use this approach to ensure adequate spare parts are available following a significant event.

Building this type of reserve would be expensive for any one company. That is why Grid Assurance pools the needs of multiple companies, which allows transmission owners to share in this dedicated inventory and reduce the cost for providing this necessary service.

Grid Assurance provides subscribers access to difficult-to-obtain equipment that can be quickly deployed, ensuring the lights come back on faster.

Who can subscribe?

Any transmission-owning company looking to increase their ability to recover faster from significant grid outage events by having dedicated spare large power transformers and other vital transmission equipment stored in a secure, off-site location is eligible to subscribe.

How does Grid Assurance’s solution compare with other programs?

Utilities maintain some operational spares to replace equipment that fails due to normal wear and tear. It is economically prohibitive (three to five times more expensive versus pooling costs and assets) for a utility to stockpile multiple, million-dollar pieces of equipment to prepare for full recovery from significant grid outages that happen infrequently.

A transmission owner’s operational spares are often stored near the equipment they will replace, which increases the likelihood the spare will also be damaged during a significant event.

There are two industry programs that rely on transmission owners sharing their operational spares with other transmission owners who may experience a significant grid outage. These sharing programs have a significantly higher threshold for obtaining spares ranging from a requirement that the president of the United States declare a national emergency to the company proving they cannot recover to a normal operating condition with just their spares.

Other industry programs rely on sharing operational spares from multiple companies, and as a result the impacted transmission owner does not know the exact location of the asset they would be receiving, its physical condition, how much it is going to cost or how long it will take to deliver the spare unit to the impacted site. Those details must be determined after the event and adds time to the restoration.

Due to its dedicated spare equipment, Grid Assurance provides impacted transmission owners certainty on the location of the equipment, physical condition, approved delivery route and cost.

What equipment is in Grid Assurance’s inventory?

Grid Assurance currently stores long lead time equipment such transformers, circuit breakers and bushings. Additional products are expected to be offered.

Why are extra high voltage transformers critical assets?

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. has 80,000 miles of extra high voltage (EHV) transmission lines that form the backbone of the transmission grid and enable the long-haul transport of electricity for our nation. EHV transformers are critical pieces of equipment on the transmission grid, and 90% of consumed power passes through a high voltage transformer at some point.

EHV transformers are enormous with dimensions being larger than most rooms in a typical house. In addition, they weigh hundreds of tons, making rail transportation necessary for much of their journey and in some cases require specialized railcars.

EHV transformers pose unique vulnerabilities because of the long lead time for their manufacture and replacement, and because of potential susceptibility to significant threats. Concerns about the vulnerabilities of EHV transformers have focused government and industry attention on the need for a reserve capacity of transformers that would increase the ability of individual utilities and industry partnerships to respond to adverse events and assure that the U.S. grid is increasingly resilient and able to recover quickly from widespread transformer failures.

How many warehouses does Grid Assurance have and where are they located?

Grid Assurance has secured multiple warehouse sites across the country that provide access to rail, highway and water transportation. The sites are close to subscribers so that equipment transportation time is reduced. The locations remain confidential for security purposes.

Is Grid Assurance a regulated company?

Grid Assurance is not regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), but it charges cost-based subscription fees modeled after FERC-regulated transmission formula rates. These transparent, cost-based subscription fees facilitate members’ ability to recover their expenses.

Grid Assurance is an independent company offering a robust response to the numerous potential risks facing our nation’s transmission system.

What people are saying

…an important step in letting market forces solve our problems instead of pushing for federal action

— American Enterprise Institute

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