Electroindustry Experts and Congress Discuss How to Rebuild Smart Grids After Disasters

The Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, Jenniffer González-Colón, kicked off a congressional briefing, “Rebuilding Smart, Exploring Ways to Rebuild the Electrical Grid After Disasters,” where members of Congress and electroindustry experts examined solutions and policy hurdles of disaster reconstruction.

“Puerto Rico needs to get people and businesses back to work, and able to withstand future disasters, or there will be no lasting recovery,” says Representative González-Colón. “To properly rebuild, it is necessary to change the vision of policies like the Stafford Act, so that mitigation of future risk and built-in resilience are required to be a part of the recovery effort. This is why Rep. Serrano and I have co-sponsored HR 4251, the Rebuilding Resilient Energy Systems Act of 2017. We count on our fellow citizens and our congressional leaders to support this effort.”

Representative Gonzalez-Calon was joined by Reps. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) and Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), who are also co-sponsors of the bill.

“As we look to the future of the Puerto Rico electricity system, it is imperative that we think holistically and with purpose about how to rebuild,” says Representative Kaptur, a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee. “New technologies can provide for increased resiliency in the face of future storms and, in many cases, they are more efficient and lower cost to consumers.”

“Puerto Rico must use the catastrophe of recent hurricanes as a catalyst for change. Building a grid that uses renewable energy is the best investment the government can make,” adds Representative Velázquez, a member of the House Small Business Committee. “We cannot repeat the same mistakes of the past.”

NEMA Members, Schneider Electric and ABB, joined as panelists in the briefing. Schneider Electric proposes public-private partnerships for a series of community and critical facility microgrids that would augment reliability of the main grid with islanding capabilities for prolonged outages. ABB states that rebuilding an electric grid is possible with already developed technologies and that repair and rebuilding funding should allow flexibility to deploy existing grid solutions that increase grid resiliency.

“Today NEMA Member company experts explained to our elected officials why the state-of-the-art electrical systems and products are needed to rebuild smart,” says NEMA President and CEO Kevin J. Cosgriff. “As the rebuilding effort continues in Puerto Rico, decision-makers should use reconstruction funds to deploy smart technologies to mitigate future power outages. These hurricane-related infrastructure rebuilding initiatives in storm-damaged jurisdictions can serve as pilot projects for application to the nation as a whole.”

Representatives from ABB and Schneider Electric stressed to lawmakers that existing advanced technologies should be used in restoration, reconstruction, or replacement efforts; making repaired infrastructure more resilient for the future.

The NEMA staff of experienced engineers and electroindustry experts has provided lawmakers and local officials with recommendations and guidance documents for an approach to electrical preparedness and recovery. The Storm Reconstruction Toolkit, available in both English and Spanish, outlines how technologies of today can provide power systems that can be restored more quickly following a disaster.

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