June marked the official start of Atlantic Hurricane Season, with storm activity already brewing and projected to once again be above normal. While extreme weather poses challenges to daily life and public safety, it’s an important reminder of what goes into keeping the lights on. As you check your flashlight supply, here’s a look at how power generators prepare for and respond to hurricanes and tropical storms – and how you can take steps to stay safe.
A Coordinated Effort to Protect Critical Infrastructure
America’s competitive power suppliers—like the EPSA member companies who own and operate about 150,000 MW of generation—are an essential part of our nation’s critical infrastructure. The work they do keeps our economy, emergency services and daily life running.
Dedicated to providing reliable electricity and protecting public safety, competitive power suppliers have been working for years to prepare for this year’s hurricane season through extensive planning and efforts to allow them to respond when storms strike.
Power generation is just one component of what it takes to bring electricity to homes, businesses and emergency services. Storm response and power restoration is an all-hands effort, involving the entire power sector, federal, state and local governments, and emergency first responders. Electric companies, regulated and public power utilities, and rural electric cooperatives all work together to protect public safety and minimize service disruption.
We break down the differences between regulated and restructured markets here.
EPSA works closely with organizations throughout the electric supply chain and public officials to help ensure the industry is prepared to meet extreme weather challenges and other threats to grid reliability. EPSA is on the steering committee of the Electric Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC), a group that serves as the principal liaison between the federal government and the electric power industry on efforts to prepare for, and respond to, national-level disasters or threats to critical infrastructure.
Scheduled System Maintenance and Preparation
Hurricane preparedness begins well ahead of inclement weather. Before storm season begins, generators perform planned shutdowns of facilities to allow for a range of maintenance services and tests to ensure all facilities are in good working order.
In addition to readying facilities, plant operators design multi-stage procedures and checklists to implement as storm or extreme weather activity increases.
As hurricane season begins, heightening the probability of storm activity, power generators more closely assess and begin to implement preparation procedures.
By adopting a proactive approach, generators can mitigate some of the impacts of a severe weather event. Some of the planning and response activities carried out by power generation companies include:
- Identifying and notifying emergency personnel.
- Testing emergency communications systems.
- Preparing operations sites by removing or securing any debris, chemicals, or other items that could become airborne.
- Safely shutting down the facility and locking buildings as needed.
- Evacuating non-essential personnel or the entire site when necessary.
- As applicable, closing manual natural gas supply valves.
When a large storm is predicted in the area, power generators may track its development and shift personnel and equipment to the area in advance in order to fully prepare to get generation restarted as soon as possible after the storm passes.
In the aftermath of a storm, power generators work quickly to bring plants back online and to restore any electric outages that may have occurred as a result of a storm. While retail utilities work to repair downed power lines and fix infrastructure that may have been damaged, electric power generators—including EPSA member companies—are working to ensure a reliable supply of power. That means you can get back to your usual routine more quickly.
This occurs in several steps:
- Power facilities are assessed for damage.
- Staff makes repairs as needed.
- Generators follow reopening procedures to reestablish power supply.
How You Can Prepare
While competitive power suppliers do everything possible to prevent the interruption of electric generation, it is essential for customers to be prepared for outages ahead of extreme weather.
Steps you can take include:
- Stocking your home and car with emergency supplies, including food, water, and medicine.
- Printing off copies of important documents such as insurance paperwork or emergency phone numbers.
- Making a family disaster plan.
- Paying attention to local guidance for evacuations and shelters.
More detailed readiness plans are available through Ready.gov and the Red Cross.
EPSA member companies have also provided more information and preparation resources for customers.
- Reliant Storm Center | Reliant
- Reliant Storm Preparation Tips | Reliant
- Making reliable summer electricity a reality during peak demand | NRG Insights
- Make hurricane season resiliency season | NRG Insights
- Hurricane Season is Here—Know How to Be Prepared | NRG Insights
- Hurricane Preparedness Checklist and Guidelines | TXU Energy
- Storm Assistance & Recovery Resources | TXU Energy
- bp America Storm Center | bp America
- Shell U.S. Storm Center | Shell