Monday, July 28, 2014

Wachsman participates in Governor's Roundtable on Improving Maryland’s Electric Distribution System

By Cathy Stephens

University of Maryland Energy Research Director and Council on the Environment member, Eric Wachsman, has been tapped by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley's Energy Advisor, Abigail Hopper, to participate in a series of roundtable discussions on “Improving the Resiliency of Maryland’s Electric Distribution System”. Due to the recent and lengthy power outages experienced state-wide as a result of extreme weather events, which pose a serious threat to the public health and safety of Maryland citizens, the Governor is soliciting input and analysis from experts across the state in order to develop policy recommendations and potential regulatory reforms. Citing climate change and the potential of the State of Maryland to suffer additional violent weather patterns in the coming years, Maryland’s electric distribution infrastructure and resiliency must be improved.

Wachsman participated in a live-streaming round table discussion on Tuesday, August 28, 2012 from 1:30 – 4:30pm. The topic for discussion: What investments should customers be encouraged to make (or not to make) to increase their reliability?Should there bedistributed power generation and storage? What is the role of microgrids, and who should own and operate them? Should we be looking at that as well?

Wachsman was very positive regarding the round table discussions and commented, "The reliability of the grid is critical to maintaining our standard of living and economic prosperity. However, the recent outages showed just how vulnerable we still are. The Governor's roundtable brought together academic, industry, and government experts to recommend solutions to this vulnerability and we were happy to have the opportunity to help in such an important endeavor. Moreover, UMERC's research on electrical storage, distributed generation, smart grid and grid infrastructure are the key to providing those solutions."

Additional testimony is being provided by fellow University of Maryland Civil & Environmental Engineering professor, Dr. Bilal Ayyub who testified on undergrounding pros and cons and the best return on investments in undergrounding.

Outcomes to the Governor’s roundtable discussions include options for other infrastructure investments in the electric distribution infrastructure that can or should be made in order to improve the resiliency of Maryland’s electric distribution system.  The costs and benefits of such investments should be evaluated over various time periods, including a 30-year period. Additionally, options for financing and cost recovery for capital investments to the electric distribution system should be considered.

The group is tasked with reporting back to the Governor within 60 days regarding recommended legislative changes, regulatory reforms, and other executive branch actions.

Round table discussion video can be found here: http://livestre.am/46Jxk