Utilities focused on reliable and affordable power supply

April 11, 2014

Press Release

U.S. Department of Energy receives comments on the Quadrennial Energy Review

Washington, D.C., April 11, 2014—The American Public Power Association (Public Power) applauds Duane Highley, president and CEO of the Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation, for reiterating that the U.S. electric grid is strong, safe and reliable.

Highley, the vice chair of the Electricity Sub-Sector Coordinating Council (ESCC), testified on behalf of consumer-owned utilities at the “Enhancing Infrastructure Resiliency” meeting convened today by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to receive comments on the Quadrennial Energy Review (QER). Public Power welcomes the DOE’s call for more emphasis on infrastructure, including transmission and distribution, and fuel diversity.

In a statement submitted to the QER, Public Power President and CEO Sue Kelly asserted that electric utilities have been focused on improving the safety and reliability of the complex and dynamic electric grid for years. The industry’s top priority is to protect critical power infrastructure from cyber and physical threats by partnering with all levels of government and sharing critical information.

Highley reiterated that the primary mission of consumer-owned utilities is to make power supply reliable and affordable for all Americans. “…the value of electricity is far greater than its price …We serve some of the poorest families in the country. It is our responsibility to see that their energy is delivered at the lowest possible cost,” he said.

The U.S. power grid is based on the latest technology and is continuously updated to ensure reliable service, according to Highley. Utilities have partnered with the government to deploy advanced technology to protect power system networks from cyber threats. In fact the electric sector is the only critical infrastructure area that has mandatory standards for cybersecurity.

Redundancy is the electric industry’s first line of defense against all threats, explained Highley. Acts of sabotage, such as the attacks on the Metcalf substation in California and near Little Rock, Arkansas, in 2013, did not interrupt service to customers because of the redundancy that has been designed into the electric system to guard against natural disasters and routine equipment failure.

Public Power — along with the Canadian Electricity Association, the Edison Electric Institute, the Electric Power Supply Association, the Large Public Power Council, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and the Transmission Access Policy Study Group (associations) — has supported the mandatory electric reliability regime created by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, that applies to the reliability, cybersecurity, and now physical security of the bulk electric system. In recognition of the changing nature of threats to the security of the grid, particularly cyber threats, industry also has worked with DOE and Homeland Security to expand the focus of the ESCC.

“I also want to push back on any notion that our electric grid is not up to snuff. Our experience has demonstrated that the grid is more than ready to handle the challenges of a 21st century energy industry,” said Highley.

Consumer-owned utilities are often among the early adopters when it comes to new technology, when it is shown to be cost-effective and a benefit to the consumers. “A lot of folks would like to sell us some technology that may theoretically provide some small measure of benefit, and those people would love to create a government mandate to deploy their technology, but it is our job to balance cost and reliability to keep the power reliable and affordable,” Highley said.

Highley expressed concern over proposed carbon dioxide emission regulations, which could eliminate significant capacity from the grid and impact reliability.

Public Power also urged the federal government to ensure that the key financing tool for public power utilities — municipal bonds — are not encumbered with an unprecedented federal tax. Such a tax would hurt the ability to finance new capital investments in the electric grid and new, cleaner sources of generation.

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