FERC, NERC staff address power restoration efforts of grid operators

Plans of nine entities to restore power to the grid following a major outage are thorough and detailed, and power industry participants can learn some lessons in reviewing their own plans, according to a new report from staff at NERC and FERC.

Effective grid recovery and restoration plans are essential to a quick and orderly recovery from reliability events such as blackouts caused by weather, bulk power system disturbances or possible cyber or physical attacks, FERC said in a Jan. 29 statement.

The purpose of the joint staff review was to assess and verify the utility industry’s recovery and restoration plans and to assess the effectiveness of related mandatory reliability standards in maintaining reliability.

For transmission operators and reliability coordinators, reliability standard EOP-005-2 calls for such entities to develop and maintain system restoration plans to re-establish its electric system in a stable and orderly manner in the event of a partial or total shutdown of its system, the report said. Those plans are required to include procedures to cover emergency conditions and the loss of vital telecommunication channels, the report said.

The joint staff review team from NERC and FERC identified some areas for further study, including improvements to the clarity of certain reliability standard requirements and some new critical infrastructure protection reliability standards that have yet to go into effect.

Among the recommendations in the report are that entities:

·         Verify and test modifications to a system restoration plan

·         Plan for the potential loss of Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition computers and other data sources

·         Obtain insight from entities that have experienced widespread outages

·         Ensure that cyber security response plans identify the types of events that trigger a response and which types should be reported

·         Obtain independent technical review of recovery plans for critical cyber assets and cyber security incident response plans

·         Participate in exercises and simulations to help develop robust cyber security response and recovery plans

“Overall, the joint staff review team found that the participants have system restoration plans that, for the most part, are thorough and highly-detailed,” the report said.

The report said that the plans require identification and testing of blackstart generation resources, identification of primary and alternate cranking paths, which are portions of the grid that can be isolated and then energized to deliver power from a generation source to enable the startup of one or more other generation units, and periodic drills on the restoration process under a variety of outage scenarios.

Blackstart resources are generating units that have the ability to be started without the support from the rest of the bulk power system or are designed to remain energized without connection to the remainder of the bulk power system and can be used to restart other generating units, the report explained.

The review was not a reliability compliance or enforcement initiative, and the joint staff report does not reflect the views of FERC, the commission said in its statement.

The nine entities whose plans were examined were not identified in the report, though the report noted that they were chosen to be a representative sample of entities with significant bulk power grid responsibilities, including some entities that are registered with NERC in multiple functions.