DOE analysis of transmission plans progressing under QER implementation

With implementation of the Quadrennial Energy Review (QER) taking place at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), several elements could help the power sector work on transmission projects, a DOE official said Dec. 1 at the TransForum East conference in Washington.

The QER included 63 recommendations to address various elements of the energy sector, with a good amount dealing with transmission enhancements and modernizing the power grid, said Carol Battershell, deputy director of energy policy and systems analysis at DOE.

A large portion of the recommendations can be accomplished through executive order or agency actions, so DOE is actively looking at those, Battershell told the conference, which was sponsored by TransmissionHub.

Among those are a national review of transmission plans and an assessment of any barriers to grid enhancements, she said. That will include a look at how FERC’s Order 1000 is being carried out, and DOE is coordinating with the agency as FERC develops metrics to track progress of transmission plans stemming from the rule.

“We think we’ll have a draft report in April” on that element, and DOE will take comments on it, Battershell said.

Another recommendation is to assess the power industry’s work to address spare transformers that could be used in case of a large, extended outage on the power grid, she added. Large transformers are expensive and they are usually custom-built, which can take up to a year to have them in place.

The QER looked at the government’s role and concluded that it needs to examine what is needed to mitigate the risk associated with the potential loss of numerous transformers, Battershell related.

She emphasized that DOE does not want to duplicate existing industry work in this area, which includes the Spare Transformer Equipment Program (STEP), which was established almost 10 years ago. The STEP effort, led by the Edison Electric Institute, is designed to strengthen the ability to restore the nation’s transmission system in case of a terrorist attack, and it includes streamlining the process of moving transformers to any affected utilities.

The power industry knows best what will work and how much of a reserve of transformers will be needed, Battershell said in response to questions after speaking at the conference. The Western Area Power Administration is helping DOE assess the spare transformer work of the industry, she said.

The assessment should be done in about six months, she said.

The QER was issued in April, outlining infrastructure needs for the future, with the first installment focusing on energy transmission, storage and distribution. It sought to identify vulnerabilities in the energy sector and included recommendations to replace, expand and modernize infrastructure where appropriate.

While the QER is a bulky document, “it feels like it’s getting some traction and the recommendations are making a difference,” Battershell said.