FERC considers geomagnetic disturbance standards

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

U.S. energy regulators examining reliability standards for the electric transmission grid relating to geomagnetic disturbances have scheduled a technical conference for March 1, 2016.

Geomagnetic disturbance, or GMD, events occur during solar storms when the sun emits charged particles whose magnetic field interacts with that of the Earth.  GMDs can affect transformers, transmission lines, and other electric grid infrastructure.  As the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission noted in its Order No. 779, "there is a general consensus that GMD events can cause wide-spread blackouts due to voltage instability and subsequent voltage collapse, thus disrupting the reliable operation of the Bulk-Power System."

In 2013, the FERC issued Order No. 779 directing NERC to propose Reliability Standards that address the impact of geomagnetic disturbances (GMD) on the reliable operation of the Bulk - Power System.  In 2015, NERC made its proposal, which the FERC has proposed to largely accept.

But the case before FERC, docketed as RM15-11, remains ongoing.  Grid operators, utilities, trade groups, and others have filed comments or otherwise participated in the case.

The Commission has now scheduled a GMD technical conference on March 1, 2016, as a forum for "a structured dialogue on GMD-related topics."  Items specifically identified for discussion at this stage include what kind of GMD event should be used as the "benchmark" for planning purposes, vulnerability assessments, and monitoring of related parameters.

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