U.S. Power Grid. Who Will Keep the Lights On?

Energy and Lighting Nov 09, 2017

How important is the power grid to your daily life? What about your business? Count governments, throughout the United States, among those who rely on a reliable, secure power grid.

Earlier this year, I reported on U.S. public sector purchasing activity related to renewable energy. There has been, and continues to be, indisputable advancements and implementation growth in these assets. In this report, I delve into the critically important, and hotly debated, U.S. electric grid.

Equipment

In the U.S., there are actually three power grids: Western Interconnection, Eastern Interconnection, and here in the Texas, we have our own power grid. You ask, “Why do we have our own power grid in the Lonestar State?” As noted in the Texas Tribune we have our own grid “to avoid dealing with the feds.” I suppose that is as good a reason as any.

Over the past handful of decades, there have been some notable power outages:

  • Northeast U.S. and northern Canada. 1965
  • New York City. 1977
  • West coast blackout. 1982
  • Western North America blackout. 1996
  • North central U.S.. 1998
  • Northeast blackout. 2003
  • Southwest blackout. 2011
  • Derecho blackout. 2012
  • Hurrican Sandy. 2012

Along with losses of $millions to businesses and individuals, the impact from immeasurables is enormous. As noted, a few of these outages are directly attributed to unpreventable weather-related events. However, the question exists, “Is the U.S. energy system sufficiently built and maintained to withstand the wrath of Mother Nature?” On the other end of things, what is being done to improve a system first envisioned by Thomas Edison in the ’80s, as in, 1880s?

Throughout the U.S., there are transmission and distribution lines in place, supporting power grids which are running at full capacity. Make note, many of these lines were first installed anywhere from the 1950s to 1960s. Under the heading of “nothing lasts forever”, the lines were projected to last for 50 years. A glance at a nearby calendar confirms that the suspense date for action has passed.

With the goal of determining the level of activity underway, to address some of these deficiencies, I tasked two of our data analysts to query our database. Over the past twelve months, we have identified 1,681 bid requests/RFPs for equipment, solutions, and services related to the power grid. 75.7% of the requests originated from U.S. state and local entities. Here are the states with the highest number of soliciations over the time period considered.

As we indicate in the above video, the requests and purchases involve a lengthy list of equipment, solutions, and services. As a reminder, here are the keywords, by which the data analysts compiled the bid activity information:


  • electrical grid
  • power grid
  • high voltage
  • generating station
  • transmission line
  • distribution line
  • power station
  • power transmission
  • substation
  • electric power distribution
  • direct current
  • smart grid
  • distributed generation
  • transformer
  • power plant
  • energy storage
  • transmission system
  • terminal station
  • power security

Security

As Bill noted in the above video, power grid security has been, and continues to be, an important consideration for administrators, law enforcement, and government agencies. In the history of the U.S. power grid, security has long been an important concern. However, with the rise in terrorism, cyber-terrorism, and even the potential for a lone wolf intent on doing harm and wreaking havoc, the power grid continues to be a significant target. Without question, any action that negatively impacts the power grid could inflict severe consequences. Just over two months ago, Wired published an article, ‘Hackers Gain Direct Access to US Power Grid Controls’.

Noted expert, Greg DiLoreto, former American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) President, discussed with us the impact 9/11 had on U.S. infrastructure security and what is being done within the utility industry. LISTEN to hear what Mr. DiLoreto said specifically regarding security.

Fueled by this reality, we have detected a number of bids/RFPs for security solutions, directly linked to the power grid, and associated assets and property. Information technology, security forces, construction techniques, are amongst the activity we have witnessed.

Sample active bids / RFPs

Power Grid


Want more information on this bid/RFP activity, including review of the bid documents? Please call us at 888.808.5356, or visit: BidPrime.

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