Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

State Energy Security Plans: Increasing Our Nation’s Energy Resilience and Security

The recently published North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) Summer Reliability Assessment 2022 paints a challenging picture for the electricity sector, state governments, and the customers they serve. Among other key findings, the report identified a “high risk of energy emergencies” impacting regions including the Midwest United States (US), drought conditions creating “heightened [electricity] reliability risks”, and above normal temperatures across the US increasing peak electricity demand this summer. The energy sector is uniquely exposed to other global trends: climate change is leading to a longer and more severe wildfire season; supply chain issues are impeding projects designed to increase generation and transmission capacity; and the war in Ukraine has once more demonstrated the risk of physical and cyber attacks against power grids. The push for electrification and renewable energy sources indicates the pressure on the electricity grid is unlikely to subside.

As the emergency declarations issued following the 2020 California wildfires and 2021 Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack demonstrated, Governors look to their emergency management agency to solve energy-related crises. With new funding made available through the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) State Energy Program (SEP) to develop State Energy Security Plans (SESP), emergency managers are in a position to leverage their expertise in support of state-wide energy security initiatives. What’s more, the DOE has made up to $200,000 available for each state seeking to create or update their SESP. Similar to a state Energy Assurance Plan (EAP), the new SESP is a document designed to ensure a reliable and resilient supply of energy through identifying, mitigating, and planning for risks to the sector.

Investing in Energy Infrastructure

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) has placed renewed emphasis on US infrastructure, including making billions of dollars available to strengthen the reliability and resilience of the grid. As part of this effort, the DOE has tied SEP funding – including $500 million IIJA funding  – to a new requirement for states to develop SESPs. The SEP is not new; since 2010, it has provided technical assistance and funding to states, territories, and the District of Columbia pursuing innovative energy initiatives, including efforts to improve energy security and affordability. However, the new requirement recognizes that the energy sector is uniquely critical and that the state has a unique role in bringing together public and private energy stakeholders to ensure the state has secure, reliable, and resilient energy infrastructure. As professional collaborators, state emergency managers across the nation are uniquely positioned to work across critical sectors to help secure both their state’s energy future and access to millions of dollars in federal funds.

The DOE has set clear expectations. States applying for SEP funds in any given year must also provide an updated SESP for that year – no SESP, no SEP funds. The DOE has also provided clear guidance on how to meet the new requirement, explaining that the SESPs should assess the existing energy circumstances in the state and propose methods to secure energy infrastructure against physical and cybersecurity threats, mitigate the risk of energy supply disruptions to the state, enhance the response to and recovery from energy disruptions, and ensure the state has reliable, secure, and resilient energy infrastructure. This is a wide-ranging remit, requiring investment by the state in public and private relationships to build an accurate and effective plan.

Planning for the Future

Such plans are familiar territory for emergency managers, for whom interagency and public-private collaboration, coordination, and planning are part of the job description. Indeed, states have been developing energy assurance plans for years, alongside Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessments (THIRA), hazard mitigation plans, and emergency operations plans, working closely with the state entities responsible for energy security including the Governor’s Office, energy offices, Public Utility Commissions, and fusion centers. However, the move from EAPs to SESPs is indicative of a more challenging threat environment, and speaks to the urgency of the task at hand. The DOE’s SESP requirement presents an opportunity for emergency managers, who are in a position to lead their state’s SESP effort. By coordinating the SESP process, state emergency management agencies can create value for their state energy office and their public and private sector stakeholders across the sector, while also ensuring access to millions of dollars of federal funding, benefiting the citizens they serve.

However, this new requirement comes at a challenging time for state agencies and emergency managers, not least due to the ongoing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain issues hitting both the energy sector and the wider economy. A thoughtful and impactful SESP will require time: owing to the regional nature of the energy sector, planning and coordination must encompass the public and private sectors and span Independent System Operators (ISO), generation and transmission owners and operators, distribution companies, and end-users encompassing electricity, liquid fuels, and natural gas.

Hagerty Can Help

With two decades of experience partnering with state agencies and their stakeholders to prepare for and respond to natural and man-made disasters and emergencies across the US, we have the expertise necessary to act as a force-multiplier on high-resource, short-timeframe planning efforts. The SESP requirements align with our expertise across critical infrastructure, physical security, and cyber security, bringing the knowledge and partnerships necessary to meet the SESP’s requirements and secure access to federal funds for your state. We have a track record of supporting states, alongside their local and federal partners, delivering regional energy assurance efforts, working across the US and Canada to support NERC’s successful delivery of GridEx VI, and developing mitigation plans spanning cyber, physical, and natural threats and vulnerabilities. Reach out to understand how Hagerty can help your state build a compliant SESP and secure access to this important federal funding.

Jonathan Davis is Hagerty’s Energy Sector Lead and a Senior Managing Associate within the Preparedness Division. He is a homeland security subject matter expert and helps clients navigate and address complex energy, security, and cyber issues. Prior to joining Hagerty, Jonathan worked for the United Kingdom (UK) Home Office – the UK’s lead government department for counter-terrorism and policing, immigration and passports, drugs policy, crime, and fire.

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