Leveraging Federal and Regional Partnerships to Improve Long-term Energy Resilience

Florida is no stranger to the catastrophic impacts of hurricanes. With 72 lives lost and an estimated economic loss of $83 billion to the state as a result of Hurricane Irma in 2017, improving the reliability and resilience of energy systems is a top priority for those who manage critical infrastructure facilities, including hospitals, military installations, centers of refuge, and municipal services such as wastewater treatment facilities.  It is also a priority for local government officials with responsibilities for a range of issues, including emergency management and response, such as the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact (Compact). On September 27-28th, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Southeast Combined Heat and Power Technical Assistance Partnership (CHP TAP) and the Compact jointly hosted a workshop on Resilient Energy Systems at the University of Miami in Coral Gables.

More than 70 people attended the one and a half-day event which covered the benefits of locally sited distributed energy resources such as combined heat and power, microgrids, solar PV and energy storage in support of improving southeast Florida’s disaster preparedness and ensuring long-term regional resilience.

Energy resilience, according to Grace Relf at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, is the ability of an energy system to withstand “high-consequence, low probability” events and regain normal operational activity. While reliability is the ability to withstand “low-consequence, high probability” events.

The Southeast CHP TAP and the Compact, discovered a complementary mission to improve energy resiliency, which became the foundation for this partnership.  The Southeast CHP TAP, serves 8 states in the Southeast region, including Florida, and is one of 10 regional centers in the country. The CHP TAP, which is supported by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, supports increased resiliency by providing fact-based, non-biased education and consultation to advance programs and policies that support resilient energy.

Similarly, the Compact, established between county and municipal governments in Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach Counties in 2010, works to support and coordinate climate change mitigation and adaptation activities across county lines, and has an emphasis on energy resilience. The Compact’s Regional Climate Action Plan “RR-12: Promoting renewable energy and storage” for community resilience and disaster recovery, recognizes the need to provide back-up power ‘by promoting distributed solar, battery storage, microgrids, and other techniques of distributed production and storage.’  As demonstrated by their partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy, they have expanded to work with federal partners as well as state, regional, municipal, nonprofit, academic and private sector partners to further their goals. (Quote from Samantha Danchuk, Assistant Director, Broward County, EPCRD).

A slide from the “Energy Resilience with Distributed Energy; CHP with other Resources”
A slide from the “Energy Resilience with Distributed Energy; CHP with other Resources” presentation, which highlights various technologies and their capacity to withstand conditions or events.

Additional workshop topics included:

  • Resources and Financing Mechanisms
  • Valuing Distributed Resources
  • Energy Efficiency: The Foundation
  • Planning and Evaluating Resilient Energy Systems – Working group sessions

Presentations for the workshop can be found here.  As a follow-up to the workshop, the Compact and the Southeast CHP TAP are presently creating a Guiding Document which will serve to provide additional resources for public sector entities to consider these technologies. The Southeast CHP TAP is planning to hold another workshop in Florida early next year to further support development of combined heat and power based resilient energy systems.

About the U.S. DOE Southeast CHP TAP:

The U.S. Department of Energy Southeast Combined Heat and Power Technical Assistance Partnership, which is administered by the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center of NC State University, supports the development of combined heat and power, including distributed generation and microgrid applications in the industrial, commercial and institutional facilities in the following eight southeast states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.  Since 2009, the CHP TAPs have provided technical support nationally, to over 1,900 clients. More than 441 of those projects, which have an estimated installed capacity of 8 GW, are in the project pipeline for installations. The Florida team includes the University of Miami and the Florida Institute of Technology.