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Regulatory/Politics

White House seeks standards on real-time power outage data

Washington, D.C. – Our society increasingly depends on electricity, but more frequent extreme weather events are disrupting Americans' access to power, especially in underserved communities. We need robust, comprehensive, and transparent power outage data to inform investments in grid resilience and restoration, deliver immediate benefits to our existing emergency response systems, and provide visibility into equity.

That's why the White House is launching a Call to Action that asks utilities and outage data companies to voluntarily share their data with the Outage Data Initiative Nationwide (ODIN). This call builds on the Biden-Harris Administration's broader efforts to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by no later than 2050, invest in underserved communities, and achieve a reliable, long-term transformation of the energy system.

Background

We have been gradually electrifying our economy for over a century, enabling sectors like manufacturing, construction, healthcare, and communications. Electricity coverage is expanding rapidly to provide cleaner transport, heating, and other energy needs across the economy. In the zero-carbon future needed to meet our climate goals, around 50% of U.S. energy use is projected to come from electricity compared to 3% in 1950 and 21% today. The Biden-Harris Administration recently highlighted the transition to a net-zero grid and accelerated electrification as one of five game-changing technologies for reaching net-zero. On December 14, 2022, the White House Electrification Summit will highlight current opportunities and gather critical public input regarding the innovation needed to accelerate and sustain progress.

In recent years, power outages, driven primarily by extreme weather events, have increased markedly, exceeding 8 hours of interruption in 2020 and 7 hours in 2021. These outages disproportionately affect historically overburdened and underserved communities. For example, during a 2021 winter storm in Texas, low-income areas experienced more pipe bursts and made more calls for help per person than other areas. Another study showed that after Hurricane Irma in Florida, higher-income individuals were able to evacuate to destinations with lower power outage rates than lower-income individuals. It also highlighted that in the coming years, more people will become dependent on electricity for home dialysis or oxygen concentrators, and this group appears to be disproportionately lower-income.

As we face a future with greater dependence on electricity, the extreme weather events that have driven recent power outages will worsen (National Climate Assessment (NCA4)). In response to this challenge, unprecedented federal investments will enhance flexibility, increase resilience, and help modernize the electric grid. For example, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law created the Department of Energy's Grid Resilience Grants, which includes $2.5 billion in formula grants for States, Tribes, and Territories to reduce outages and enhance the resilience of the electric grid.

Additionally, the Grid Resilience Innovation Partnerships (GRIP) program provides $10.5 billion in competitive funding to enhance grid flexibility and improve the resilience of the power system against growing threats of extreme weather and climate change. These programs include:

  • $3 billion for Smart Grid Grants to increase the flexibility, efficiency, and reliability of the electric system
  • $5 billion in financing opportunities for the Grid Innovation Program to support innovative approaches to transmission, storage, and distribution infrastructure to enhance grid resilience and reliability
  • $2.5 billion utilities and related operators to reduce outages and enhance the resilience of the electric grid through the Grid Resilience Utility and Industry Grants; the ODIN data standard is a Program Policy Factor in this Funding Opportunity Announcement for this program The Inflation Reduction Act provides $40 billion in loan authority to support transmission expansion projects and emerging technologies, including high-voltage direct current deployment and Government Emergency Telecommunications Service manufacturing and deployment.

Accessible, standardized power outage data can improve response times and save lives when combined with other emergency response systems. In the short term, this will allow communities to recover faster, measure progress, and ensure the needs of underserved communities are met. Over time, consistent, comprehensive outage data can help target significant investments to modernize our grid and reduce the severity of power outages.

Read the full announcement here.

The White House

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