NEMA Establishes Two Programs to Improve Electrical Grid

August 20, 2013 by Jeff Shepard

In the decade since the 2003 blackout that crippled much of the northeastern United States and Canada, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) has established two major programs that are focused on the technical and policy aspects of improving the performance of the electrical grid: the Emerging Technology Panel (ETP) and NEMA Strategic Initiatives (SI) program. ETP is a group of 20 chief technologists and senior scientists from NEMA membership. Meeting twice a year, ETP discusses major challenges faced by their utility and commercial customers to identify future directions that will be beneficial to the industry and consumers.

“It’s appropriate that the White House released its report, Economic Benefits of Increasing Electric Grid Resilience to Weather Outages, on the anniversary of the blackout,” says NEMA President and CEO Evan R. Gaddis. “With a price tag that topped $60 billion in some estimates, it’s important that we re-examine the root causes and contributing factors of the 2003 blackout to ensure an event of that magnitude never happens again.”

In coordination with ETP, NEMA’s SI program tackles the technical and policy hurdles necessary to implement ETP’s vision. Smart Grid, high performance buildings, energy storage, industrial energy efficiency, microgrids, and nanotechnology are all examples of past strategic initiatives.

“Our top-level strategy is simple,” says Senior Vice President of Operations Ric Talley. “We examine the technical barriers to implementation, move to identify standardized solutions to overcome them, and then promote those standards to regulators and legislators.” Tally also notes that because NEMA is both a trade association and an ANSI-accredited standards developer, the association provides a natural forum to seek industry-wide solutions to problems.

“The tricky part of the equation is quantifying the benefits for those solutions to state and federal regulators,” Talley says. “We not only look to our members, but also rely heavily on industry partners like the Edison Electric Institute and the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel.”