Build the Business Model for Resiliency at GridFWD 2018

Since the term resiliency means different things to different people, how do you go about building consensus and moving ahead?

The Smart Grid Northwest community started to unpack this challenge at the NW Energy Resiliency Summit this past June. Now, join resiliency leaders and advocates from across the Northwest at GridFWD 2018, on October 10th and 11th in Vancouver, BC to continue the work of building business models that address our regional resiliency challenges.

Greg Stanway, BC Hydro

The resiliency track—led by Greg Stanway, Senior Manager of Grid Modernization and Strategic Innovation Programs at BC Hydro—will build a strong framework for shared understanding of resiliency and a clear process for valuing those efforts and pushing them forward. As the attendees work through the day, we’ll get a deep understanding of the business case model that was discussed at the NW Energy Resiliency Summit, the model BC Hydro developed over several years.

First, the Elements in Making the Business Case

Before diving into model details and expert opinions, it’s important to have a shared purpose and vocabulary for energy resiliency. But instead of trying to agree to a single definition, the first session will help attendees think about what resiliency means at its most fundamental level. In Canada, for example, resiliency means the ability for people to stay warm in the winter and for the hospitals to remain open. What resiliency means to a utility may be the preparation it takes to minimize the impact of a disruption as well as the ability to quickly recover from it. That’s just bookends to a broader narrative. What does resiliency actually mean to people, to society? And what does it mean to the utility?”

Source: BC Hydro

Throughout the day at GridFWD, we will recognize these different angles of resiliency from, “How do we supply electricity?” to “What are people doing to prepare for different scenarios?” to “How do we manage through instances of challenges or difficulty?”

With this broader view of resiliency, we can zero in on what it means to Northwest utilities. How is resiliency different from reliability? Why is it important, and who does it affect? Then we can ask how utilities assess the value of resiliency programs. The answers cut across all the needs of and impacts to cities, companies, citizens and the utilities themselves—even frankly, does an investment help make the utility more viable as a business? Assessing all the different criteria that form that business case is continued in the next session.

Next: Deploying Today for Long-Term Value

The second session will explore how point solutions can do more than address one specific threat, but can also add to long-term system value. Since there may be multiple means to meet current resiliency goals, this session will present a range of experts advocating for different solutions with different broader impacts.

For example, we’ll hear from technology experts who may argue that resiliency may be most crucial at a distribution-system level. A representative from a governmental agency will assert that resiliency should be something the community should be investing in through assets such as microgrids and shared energy resources. We’ll also hear from advocates of improving resiliency by focusing at a premise level, where individual solar or storage on-site in a particular property is effective.

With each speaker making their own case, attendees can evaluate for themselves which perspective is most promising. Is it at a utility level? Community level? Or an individual premise level? Or is it some combination of the three that optimizes resiliency for citizenry and societal needs?

Now, Let’s Look at the Real Threats

After we start a business case for resiliency, and look at different ways resiliency can be achieved at different levels, we analyze the specific threats facing our region: cyber, seismic, wild fires, storms and so on. This session, moderated by Eduardo Cotilla Sanchez of Oregon State University, will include a discussion of the nature of the cyber threat to regional utilities led by a CIO of  regional utility. We’ll hear from other Northwest utility experts as we put a scale on the threat of seismic impacts, hear lessons learned from preparing for and recovering from wildfires, and examine other weather-related effects such as severe storms.

Some of the speakers confirmed for the Resiliency track at GridFWD 2018

Putting it all Together: The Broader Impacts

To pull the various discussions together, the last session on resiliency’s broadest effects isn’t just about the utility, and isn’t just about the utility customer. The utility powers broader services for the community that form its critical infrastructure. This session will dig into what the community members expect from the utility, and what they may prefer to do themselves, to improve resiliency. We’ll hear perspectives from other utilities such as water treatment facilities, transportation system managers, communications operators, and so on. The message: “Here’s why resiliency really matters to us as primary energy users, and also what it means to our customers.”

Session four will be moderated by Katie McPherson, Chief Resiliency Officer for the City of Vancouver, who will be joined by Steve Vanagas, Chief Communications Officer at Translink and others.

The key insights to learn are about, if the utility is not able to recover from an incident in a reasonable amount of time, what would customers do? What does that look like for your charter, your customers and your constituents? And with all that in mind, what do you really expect from your utility? Do you expect us to be making these investments in resiliency, or are you willing to pay for investments for your resiliency?

For example, a utility should ask a large city what it expects from its utility. If the answer is, “Oh, actually, not much because we’re investing in microgrids and community solar,” that’s a very different message than, “You are critical to our operation, our infrastructure, and investments in resiliency are absolutely fundamental for us to be able to operate as a city.”

The reason this discussion is so important is that almost all large-scale utility business cases go through a regulatory body of some kind, such as a utilities commission, or a board of directors at a for-profit utility. The customer’s voice holds weight, and it is an important piece of the complete resiliency equation. The issue of resiliency puts the customer at the center of the discussion, and communities must figure out how the many different entities working together can make sure that life is restored to normal as soon as possible.

How do we make the business case for resiliency? The unifying message in this track is that utilities have to look at all angles, not focusing on just risk, or just reliability, or just resiliency. There’s add-on effects to revenue, safety, the environment and others. It’s about painting that full picture, and assessing the value associated to all those elements.

The Resiliency Track will run on the second day of GridFWD 2018, Thursday, October 11, in parallel with a track on Electrification and Decarbonization. On Wednesday, October 10, GridFWD will focus on Flexibility and Efficient Grid Operations. On both days, attendees will also be able to attend sessions on Markets and Policy. Make your plans now and register at