Our history begins in 2003 when the Department of Energy (DOE) created two offices to focus on several critical areas: the Office of Electric Transmission and Distribution (TD) to advance the technologies needed to ensure a reliable, robust, and modern United States electricity grid, and the Office of Energy Assurance (EA), to coordinate Federal response activities within the energy sector during energy emergencies.

Shortly after, on August 14, 2003, the largest power blackout in North American history affected an estimated 50 million people in the Midwest, Northeast, and Canadian province of Ontario. Both offices responded quickly, with EA staff facilitating the energizing of an electrical line between Connecticut and New York – restoring power to large sections of New York City – and TD staff working with the newly established U.S./Canada Power System Outage Task Force to analyze the causes of the blackout and recommend future steps to improve grid reliability.

DOE merged the EA and TD offices in 2005 into a new office called Electric Transmission and Distribution. The office was elevated to the Assistant Secretary for Electricity position two years later to reflect the importance of the electricity portfolio within the DOE mission. The Electricity Transmission and Distribution office changed names and mission several times since 2005 and became the Office of Electricity (OE) in 2020. 

OE received $4.5 billion in funds in 2009 to support grid modernization activities under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)—matched by private funding to reach a total of about $9.5 billion. The Smart Grid Investment Grant program used $3.4 billion of the $4.5 billion to accelerate the modernization the nation’s electric transmission and distribution systems. In addition, the money funded investments in smart grid technologies, tools, and techniques that increase flexibility, functionality, interoperability, cybersecurity, situational awareness, and operational efficiency. ARRA funding ultimately led to:

  • New customer systems;
  • Implementation of advanced metering infrastructure;
  • Added smart grid functions to devices, equipment, and/or software applications that support local electric distribution systems;
  • Added smart grid functions to the electric transmission systems in the bulk power markets; and
  • Newly designed, produced, or purchased smart grid systems, equipment, devices, software, or communications and control systems for modifying existing electric system equipment.

In recognition of the growing intersection of energy delivery and cybersecurity, in 2018, DOE announced it was creating the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER) from two of OE’s divisions. This reorganization allowed the Department to provide greater visibility, accountability, and flexibility in safeguarding the Nation's energy infrastructure.

Most recently, DOE created the Grid Deployment Office (GDO) in 2022 to administer Bipartisan Infrastructure Law programs that will catalyze the nationwide development of new and upgraded high-capacity electric transmission lines, and support investments to modernize the flexibility and resilience of the distribution system to create a more resilient electric grid. GDO includes the formerly OE-based Electricity Delivery Division to support collaboration across Federal agencies, DOE’s National Labs, states, American Indian Tribes and Alaska Natives, industry, unions, local communities, environmental justice organizations, and other stakeholders to ensure the successful implementation of new transmission projects.

As the energy landscape has evolved, OE has evolved to continue to catalyze investment in groundbreaking electric and energy infrastructure to support a more resilient, reliable, and secure energy future. In the process, OE developed deep expertise and capabilities to invest in the research, development, demonstration, and deployment of next-generation technologies that will ensure America is ready for the decarbonized grid of future and maintain DOE as global energy technology leaders.