A small power outage in Newport was not necessarily an auspicious start to a two-day energy workshop. On the other hand, the brief outage, caused by a lightning strike, was quickly resolved – inspiration, perhaps, to the group of stakeholders from across Oregon who had gathered to discuss local energy resiliency following catastrophic events.
The workshop, held in early May, was held as part of the National Governors Association Policy Academy on Grid Modernization. With support from Governor Brown’s office, ODOE and Central Lincoln PUD teamed up on a joint application to the 18-month academy in late 2016. Within a few weeks, we learned our project on utilizing distributed resources to enhance local energy resiliency had been selected. The Newport workshop was the first meeting where the project team got to dig into issues with stakeholders.
Attendees represented utilities up and down the coast, nonprofits, local governments, and state agencies. On the first day, a smaller group toured local energy infrastructure, including a wave energy test buoy that’s been deployed off the Oregon coast. The tour highlighted a Central Lincoln substation that was recently raised out of the tsunami zone. Central Lincoln’s new operations center – slated to open this summer – was also featured. It, too, was deliberately planned and is being built on higher ground to replace the existing operations center sited at a lower elevation.
The second day, the group gathered for an in-depth discussion of issues around local energy resiliency. ODOE and Central Lincoln set the stage by describing efforts to develop a roadmap for local energy resiliency that utilities and communities can use to plan, prepare for, and recover from major events that threaten the delivery of electricity. The most extreme example would be a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake, but the roadmap is intended to help communities support critical public services following major disruptive events such as floods, wildfires, electromagnetic pulses or cyberattacks.
Key to the roadmap development is engaging and learning from local communities and drawing on best practices identified by experts from around the country. Adam Schultz, ODOE senior policy analyst, said one of his takeaways from the workshop was how much good work is already being done in Oregon to plan for disruptive events. “We had great engagement – it’s obvious that utilities and towns are thinking about how to respond to possible worst-case scenarios.”
The NGA Academy project will build on those efforts. Schultz says one of ODOE’s goals is to help facilitate conversations where utilities and communities can work together on prioritizing their needs for local energy resiliency investments. “We want to help define best practices for that prioritization, where communities better understand available technologies, location-specific power solutions, and opportunities for support and funding.”
Getting there won’t be easy. But this initial conversation in Newport was an excellent first step. ODOE and Central Lincoln will bring together stakeholders later this year, and will attend an NGA conference in October, as they continue developing a plan that will help consumer-owned utilities and local communities across the state as they plan for the future and enhance their local energy resiliency resources. Stay tuned for updates and different ways to get involved.