Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

A Historic Year – The 2017 DOE Year In Review and Three Case Studies in Resilience

Earlier this month, the US Department of Energy (DOE) released its State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Energy Assurance 2017 Year in Review cataloging both the efforts taken by DOE and its partners throughout the past year to better prepare for potential energy disruptions as well as the efforts undertaken as a result of a very demanding year throughout the country to respond to multiple disaster events. DOE’s State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial (SLTT) Energy Assurance Program provides federal resources and expertise to its stakeholders to help them build their capacity to prepare for and respond to energy disruptions.

With the historic hurricanes, wildfires, flooding, and windstorms that impacted the nation throughout 2017, the SLTT governments had many disruptions to and stresses on the energy sector. DOE compiled the following statistics from the last hurricane season:

In all of these instances, DOE deployed personnel to support the state, regional, and national response efforts. In spite of this impactful year, the DOE also rolled out the new Environment for Analysis of Geo-Located Energy Information (Eagle-I) System, which assists in situational awareness of outages and restoration of the electricity sector for emergency operations centers (EOCs) and energy emergency assurance coordinators (EEACs), and facilitated the Clear Path V exercise in Houston, Texas.

On other initiatives, DOE’s SLTT Energy Assurance Program partnered with:

  • The American Public Power Association (APPA)
  • The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC)
  • The National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO)
  • The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)
  • The National Emergency Management Association (NEMA)
  • The National Governors Association (NGA)

All of these partnerships paved the way for more innovative and collaborative energy preparedness, response, and recovery opportunities in the future. To maximize and maintain the momentum gained through all of these new partnerships and initiatives, the Hagerty Preparedness Team has highlighted three key considerations, including real life examples of projects supported by our Team, for communities to focus on for greater future energy resilience efforts.

  • Be proactive. Take advantage of these new initiatives and apply them to your community. For instance, one of the projects DOE partnered with NEMA on during this past year was to develop cyber-caused long-term power outage tabletop exercise (TTX) templates that were made available for jurisdictions to develop and facilitate their own power outage response and recovery exercises. While Mother Nature threw many curveballs at our country this past year, the cyber threat is still a very real, and potentially devastating, element we need to continue to explore at all levels of our community. Without any notice, entire regions may be plunged into darkness, communications systems halted, and civilization for millions of people severely altered. Bringing partners together to explore the cascading effects of such an attack is a challenging, but necessary, exercise. These materials, that have been pilot tested with different states across the country, are available under “Resources”—“Document Library”—“Long Term Power Outage.”
  • Be creative. More agencies have engaged in developing innovative solutions to maximize energy efficiency and continuity as a result of energy disruptions. For instance, in February, we featured a story of a project by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE), and the University of Texas Center for Electromechanics (CEM) to create a means to use transit agency buses as generators. (The full story can be found here.) While this is only one example of partnerships yielding innovative solutions in energy technology, it highlights that we have assets and partnerships in our communities that can be applied in non-traditional ways to enhance our ability to respond to energy disruptions, particularly after disaster events.
  • Be collaborative. In another endeavor, DOE partnered with NASEO and NEMA to host a petroleum shortage response planning workshop with representation from state emergency management agencies, energy offices, and industry representatives from across multiple FEMA regions. This workshop included opportunities for states to discuss lessons learned from this past hurricane season, as well as to explore their current status of regional preparedness and determine a path forward for increased regional coordination. GasBuddy, who played a critical role in several state EOCs this past hurricane season, led a discussion of data needs and wants in regard to petroleum shortages, which began to foster a relationship that will enable responders to have improved critical situational awareness information in the future. (A summary of the workshop can be found here.) While this effort spanned several states, being collaborative begins in the local community. Bringing together emergency management, energy sector partners, and neighboring jurisdictions builds a stronger response at the local level. Taking this to another level allows for the sharing of best practices and a cohesion in response for any wider spread events, such as those experienced this past year.

2017 was both a year for energy innovations as well as a year of energy stresses and disruptions. Applying lessons learned as well as maximizing on new collaborative efforts can help communities to improve resilience moving forward.

Ashley Wargo is a Managing Associate out of Hagerty’s Austin, Texas office with a Masters of Public Administration from the Florida State University and a special passion for critical infrastructure, the energy sector, and resource management. She attributes her passion for building a more resilient energy sector to her lifelong fear of the dark.