The Department of Energy (DOE) needs to develop a comprehensive approach to electric grid resiliency that coordinates disaster response and grid recovery, as well as utilizes lessons learned from prior natural disasters, according to a June 9 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

GAO’s report examined 15 of 35 natural disasters that it said affected the electric grid and found that there was also inadequate coordination between Emergency Response and Grid Recovery offices across the department.

“DOE does not have a comprehensive approach for coordinating its broader grid support mission, including integrating lessons learned from previous disaster responses into related efforts across the agency,” the report says. “This broader grid support includes disaster response, grid recovery, and technical assistance efforts.”

Among the offices that require greater coordination include emergency response offices in the agency’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER); the Grid Recovery Support; technical assistance and emergency response teams in the agency’s Office of Electricity; and the technical assistance programs and emergency response teams in the Office of Energy Efficient and Renewable Energy.

“Agency officials across these offices said that roles and responsibilities during the transition from disaster response to grid recovery are unclear, nor is it clear how lessons learned are communicated among these and other DOE efforts,” the report says. “Moreover, agency officials told us that in some cases there was a disconnect, where one office was not aware of efforts being undertaken by another.”

A comprehensive approach to grid recovery is crucial to increasing grid resilience, especially as – in addition to what GAO notes are natural disasters and extreme weather of increasing frequency and severity – the specter of potential cyberattacks that could threaten the power grid as well.

DOE agreed with the recommendation, the onus of which GAO puts on the secretary of Energy to develop the plan.

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Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.