Stimulus grant enables NRCCE to help plan for energy disruptions

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May 21, 2010 by NRCCE News

Morgantown, W.Va. — As long as the fuel is flowing, you don’t really pay much attention to where it comes from or how it gets there. But such things as extreme weather or a natural disaster can interrupt that supply, and it’s the job of the West Virginia Division of Energy to be ready if that happens.

“Getting ready” just doesn’t happen overnight, so West Virginia University, with stimulus funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, is working with the state Department of Energy and the Division of Military Affairs and Public Safety to update and improve the energy portion of the state’s Emergency Operations Plan. The ARRA funds total $320,688 while WVU is committing an additional $223,448 in equivalent cost sharing for a total value of $544,136.

“Most people don’t give any thought to the fact that all of West Virginia’s gasoline and diesel fuels are trucked in from out of state,” WVU Vice President for Research and Economic Development Curt M. Peterson said.

“Any number of scenarios could cause a disruption in the distribution of gasoline and coal, or even the ability of a power station to continue serving the public. These potential disruptions could have major consequences for the safety and comfort of people and the economy of the region. Preparation is key and WVU, because of its experience in energy research, is well-poised to help in that preparation.”

The funds will help the state DOE craft a plan that will ensure energy supplies are available during any type of crisis and that the plan is compatible with adjacent states.

“Currently the state’s energy plan doesn’t include smart grid technologies and alternative energy sources, which could be vital for a reliable supply of electricity, depending on the situation,” said Richard Bajura, director of the WVU National Research Center for Coal and Energy, who is leading the project at WVU.

“We’ve had a long-term relationship with WVU through groups like the NRCCE who have been great collaborators on projects in the past,” said Jeff Herholdt, WVDOE director.

After the plan is reviewed and revised, WVU will provide statewide training for emergency preparedness officials and industry representatives in areas such as alternative and sustainable energy, cyber security, smart grid technologies and energy assurance planning.

The training, along with regional emergency exercise events with bordering states, will help test the plan and improve communication with neighboring states’ agencies.

“Better coordination among state agencies creates more efficient responses, reduces duplication in planning efforts, and decreases the time required to recover and restore the energy infrastructure,” said John Saymansky, who serves as the project manager from WVU’s Division of Resource Management in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design.

“The anticipated benefits to the state include developing an energy assurance workforce, improving expertise at the state level for emergency planning and resiliency, and building expertise and capabilities that will help state agencies be more aware of how energy systems work and their importance to other sectors of the economy,” Saymansky said.

NRCCE