Maryland agencies to look into strengthening state’s electric distribution system

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley on July 25 issued an executive order to look into how to strengthen the state’s electric distribution system.

The governor directed Abigail Hopper, the administration’s energy advisor, to mobilize certain government agencies to solicit input and recommendations from experts throughout Maryland to strengthen the state’s utility infrastructure, according to a statement.

According to the executive order, the state has experienced severe weather events in the past several years, including hurricanes, blizzards and “derechos,” which have caused prolonged electricity outages, posing a threat to public health and safety.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center, a derecho is a widespread, long-lived wind storm that is associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms.

The executive order follows the state Public Service Commission (PSC) scheduling a series of hearings following outages in Maryland from the June 29 derecho. Legislative-style hearings are scheduled for Sept. 13 and, if needed, Sept. 14, to review major outage reports, which are to be filed by the applicable electric distribution utilities, according to the PSC.

The work being done internally will not replace the investigation underway by the PSC, but the governor’s efforts will be forward-looking and may lead to recommendations for further investigation and analysis by the PSC, the statement noted.

“As a result of climate change, Maryland may continue to suffer violent weather patterns in the months and years ahead,” O’Malley said in the statement. “That’s why we must engage in a thoughtful and informed dialogue to strengthen the resiliency of our electric grid. Together, we can create the 21st century infrastructure that a 21st century economy requires – these costs and benefits must be evaluated.”

According to the executive order, the governor’s energy advisor, along with the Maryland Energy Administration, the Power Plant Research Program, the Maryland Emergency Management Administration and PSC staff, are to solicit input and recommendations from experts on such issues as the effectiveness and feasibility of undergrounding supply and distribution lines in selected areas as a means of strengthening the grid and improving the resiliency of the state’s electric distribution system.

Input and recommendations are also sought on options for other infrastructure investments in the electric distribution infrastructure that can or should be made in order to strengthen the grid and improve the state’s electric distribution system’s resiliency. The costs and benefits of such investments should be evaluated over various time periods, including a 30-year period.

Another issue to be examined involves options for financing and cost recovery for capital investments to the electric distribution system, the executive order added.

According to the statement, the group is to report back to the governor within 60 days regarding recommended legislative changes, regulatory reforms and other executive branch actions.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3286 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares was TransmissionHub’s chief editor until August 2021, as well as part of the team that established TransmissionHub in 2011. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial from 2005 to 2011. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines.