COVID-19 & The Grid

By Mike Moyer – Power Market Compliance Services Specialist, NAES NERC Services

Coronavirus or COVID-19, is a disease that causes a respiratory tract infection. Typically affecting your upper respiratory tract (sinuses, nose and throat) and can also affect the lower respiratory tract (windpipe and lungs). COVID-19 is one of seven types of identified coronavirus including, the common cold to more serious diseases like MERS and SARS.

As COVID-19 continues its spread throughout the US, the economic contagion is spreading as fast as the disease itself. While the full impact of COVID-19 is not yet fully understood, our society has witnessed unprecedented unemployment, declining financial markets, disruption of supply chains, closure of schools and businesses and a new stay-at-home economy. There are still many looming questions, how long will this last, how bad will it get, what are the long-term effects to the economy and how it will affect different industries across the country?

The Department of Energy, FERC and NERC are working together to ensure the continued reliability of the electric system in the US. On March 10, 2020, NERC issued a NERC Alert for the COVID-19 virus. This Alert required an Acknowledgement by March 12, a set of Recommendations and a required response to the 6 questions provided.

The recommendations were:

  1. Develop and maintain an awareness of the status of the spread of COVID-19 and future estimates of its spread.
  2. Reinforce to your workforce to maintain good personal hygiene practices.
  3. Review and update your business continuity plans to mitigate a pandemic outbreak.
  4. Assess your organizations ability to withstand a disruption in the supply chain for critical components, materials and support resources.
  5. Prioritize your organizations planned construction and maintenance activities.
  6. Prepare for potential cyber-attacks geared around the Coronavirus.

NERC is working with the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC) along with other key government departments such as, the Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Health and Human Services regarding the best way to deal with the virus and manage the reliability of the bulk electric system. NERC also conducts a weekly situational awareness call with Reliability Coordinators across the country and has found that most have already activated their back-up control centers, are performing a deep cleaning routine at their facilities and have begun to isolate key workers.