•  Carrier

Securing our Nation's Energy

The Honorable Patricia A. Hoffman, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Electricity Delivery & Energy Reliability, U.S. Department of Energy


 The Honorable Patricia Hoffman, DOE

The Honorable Patricia Hoffman, Assistant Secretary of Energy for Electricity Delivery & Energy Reliability is joined by (left to right) Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee and UniEnergy Technologies CEO Dr. Z. Gary Yang at an event in Mukilteo, Wash., to announce more than $14 million in smart grid matching grants from the state’s Clean Energy Fund. The grants will help three utilities test and deploy new energy storage technologies designed to help integrate renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar onto the electric grid. PHOTO COURTESY OFFICE OF WASHINGTON STATE GOVERNOR JAY INSLEE


TME: How is modernization of the grid improving its resiliency and reliability?

HOFFMAN: A modern electric grid is vital to the nation’s security and economy and provides the foundation for critical services that Americans rely on each day.

In 2009, the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act provided the Department of Energy (DOE) with $3.4 billion to partner with grid owners and operators to accelerate the deployment of smart grid technologies, tools and techniques that can help improve reliability, prevent outages, reduce storm impacts and restore service faster. Thanks in part to that funding, there are now more than 1,700 synchrophasors in use that give operators a near real-time picture of what is happening and help utilities respond more quickly to abnormal conditions. Numerous advanced technolo­gies also were deployed on the distribution side—including more than 15 million smart meters, 7,600 automated feeder switches and 11,000 automated capacitors.

Another key area involves energy storage technologies, devices and systems, which can reduce power disturbances, improve system flexibility to better incorporate vari­able and intermittent renewable resources, reduce peak demand and provide resiliency. The deployment of grid-scale energy proj­ects is growing nationwide. For example, we are partnering with the State of Vermont Public Service, Green Mountain Power, and Dynapower on a resilience microgrid that will combine approximately 2-MW of solar generation with 4-MW of energy storage.

This integrated system will provide clean, distributed generation and power, pairing photovoltaic and storage in a way that a high school, which serves as a public emer­gency center, can maintain critical facilities when the grid is down.


TME: What is an important area of advancement for a successful transition to a modern grid?

HOFFMAN: As our electricity infrastruc­ture undergoes a major transformation, we are seeing more and more change occurring on the distribution system. Customers are demanding change as they install rooftop solar systems, charge electric vehicles and adopt Green Button capabilities to better manage their energy consumption.

At the same time, regulators are develop­ing policies that increase reliability stan­dards and accommodate larger quantities of distributed energy resources such as renewable sources, and discussing funda­mental changes to how distribution utilities are regulated to encourage efficiency and resilience. Neither is seeking an extremely complicated grid; but they want a supply of electricity that is reliable, clean, secure and affordable. In response, utilities are implementing advanced distribution management systems (ADMS), an inte­grated software platform that supports a robust suite of distribution management functions regardless of function or vendor.

ADMS allows information to flow between functions to increase the system’s overall capabilities. Data sources will be accessible by operational functions such as Volt-VAR Optimization, Fault Location Isolation and Service Restoration, dispatch of resources and optimization routines. As more data sources are integrated and new technologies are developed, the number of operational functions will increase.

The Office of Electricity Delivery & Energy Reliability is working to increase the efficiency, reliability and resiliency of the nation’s electrical infrastructure through the accelerated deployment of ADMS technolo­gies. We are working with industry, policy-makers and stakeholders to develop the means of tangibly quantifying the benefits of deploying an ADMS system to determine whether they justify the complexities of deployment. We also plan to develop a framework to accelerate the integration of ADMS and examine benefits from both a utility and regulatory authority perspective.


TME: Cybersecurity for the energy sector has emerged as one of the nation’s most serious grid modernization and infrastructure protection issues. How are you working with private and public sector partners to protect the grid?

HOFFMAN: DOE takes the security and reliability of our power grid very seriously and works closely with federal, state and industry partners to protect the nation’s energy infrastructure.

Keeping the power flowing to our communities and businesses and preparing our nation’s energy infrastructure for all hazards—whether they are cyber, physical, natural or manmade—is a shared respon­sibility between public and private sector partners. We work closely with industry, as well as our federal and state partners, our National Laboratories and academia to reduce the risk of energy disruptions due to a cyber incident and, if one does occur, to mitigate its effects without loss of critical functions.

Since 2010, the Office of Electricity Delivery & Energy Reliability has invested more than $150 million in cybersecurity research and development. Our invest­ments helped support 20 new technologies that are now being used to further advance the resilience of the nation’s energy delivery systems. Examples of innovations available and in use today include technology that protects energy delivery computers from unexpected cyber activity, and cybersecu­rity gateways that protect communications of field devices and between control centers.

We will continue investing in research to develop cutting-edge cybersecurity technologies and tools, and work with the energy sector, which remains fundamental to our continued success in transitioning research into practice.

Sharing timely and relevant threat information so grid owners and operators know about a potential problem as soon as possible is critical. DOE launched the Cybersecurity Risk Information Sharing Program last year with our private sector partners to provide a near real-time capability critical for infrastruc­ture owners and operators to voluntarily share cyber threat data, analyze that data, and receive mitigation measures.



“Since 2010, the Office of Electricity Delivery & Energy Reliability has invested more than $150 million in cybersecurity research and development. Our investments helped support 20 new technologies that are now being used to further advance the resilience of the nation’s energy delivery systems.”



TME: What is DOE’s role in responding to and recovering from energy disruptions associated with events such as severe weather?

HOFFMAN: DOE is the lead agency for Emergency Support Function 12 (ESF-12) for Energy, when activated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) under the Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.

In the event of an emergency, DOE provides situational awareness, using such tools as the EAGLE-I visualization and mapping tool, to federal, state and local agencies. When activated by FEMA, a team of responders specializing in energy infrastructure can quickly be deployed to the event’s location. ESF-12 responders provide situational assessments and exper­tise to help with restoration, and identify where the federal government can engage in energy restoration efforts. We maintain constant communications with federal part­ners, including FEMA, the Departments of Homeland Security, Transportation and Defense, and the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as state agencies and energy companies affected by the event.

During a major outage, the situation typi­cally changes very rapidly. Information can be conflicting and incomplete. Providing timely, accurate reports and situational assessments plays a crucial role in help­ing agencies and industry prepare for and recover from power outages. As a storm moves through an area, the number of customers without power can jump quickly. Following the storm, as crews work to restore power, outage numbers change as repairs are made. DOE provides details on a storm’s impact and the recovery and restora­tion activities being undertaken through daily Situation Reports.

This gives responders sound information to determine where federal resources should be applied for faster recovery and restoration.

 [article first published in the March-April 2015 issue of TME]


The Honorable Patricia A. Hoffman was named Assistant Secretary for the Office of Electricity Delivery & Energy Reliability, U.S. Department of Energy, in June 2010. She previously served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary. Earlier, she served as Program Manager for the Federal Energy Management Program within the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. In her current role, Assistant Secretary Hoffman provides leadership on a national level on electric grid modernization, enhancing the security and reliability of the energy infrastructure, and facilitating recovery from disruptions to the energy supply. She holds a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in Ceramic Science and Engineering from Pennsylvania State University.