Today, I joined the Electric Power Board (EPB) of Chattanooga and DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), as well as Congressional and local dignitaries and members of the Tennessee community, for the launch of an exciting new partnership that is designed to advance the state of the power grid in Tennessee. Working closely with EPB, Oak Ridge staff scientists will use their expertise to test new technologies, examine the use of microgrids, develop new analytics that will allow EPB to unlock the power of its smart grid data to improve operations, and use high-performance computing to perform modeling and simulations.  The laboratory in which this work will be done is EPB’s own power grid – an added dimension that will provide a “live”, real-world perspective. 

Our electric grid must deliver reliable, affordable, and clean electricity to consumers. This new partnership will help improve our understanding of grid operations in valuable, new ways and represents another important step in moving the nation closer to the grid of the future.

As one of the largest publicly-owned providers of electric power in the country, EPB has spent the last several years strengthening its power grid by rolling out smart grid technologies to make its distribution system more robust and improve operations, thanks in part to $111.5 million in Recovery Act stimulus funds awarded by the Energy Department. EPB has already been seeing the benefits of a smarter grid. In February of this year, for example, the community received its biggest snowfall since the Blizzard of ’93.  Although the storm affected about 76,000 customers, EPB’s smart grid automatically restored or prevented about 40,000 outages. Hundreds of crews and contractors from outside of the area helped restore electricity for the remaining 36,000 customers within three days. Prior to the smart grid, it would have taken eight days to finish that job. This new work announced today will allow EPB to leverage its existing investment to further improve operations and, at the same time, create lessons learned that can be applied elsewhere across the nation.

Grid modernization is crucial in building sustainable communities where operations are conducted more efficiently and communities are able to manage their consumption of energy more effectively and recover from disruptions more quickly and efficiently. Our economy is changing rapidly. Our energy demand is evolving. The grid itself, which is a complex machine, is also evolving rapidly. We must stay ahead of, and anticipate, change by continuing to advance the state of the grid through effective partnerships, solid research, and best practices.

Patricia A. Hoffman
Acting Assistant Secretary, Office of Electricity
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