What Cities Should Do: A Guide to Resilient Power Planning

What Cities Should Do: A Guide to Resilient Power Planning is a series of guidelines and best practices for cities and towns preparing for widespread power outages from severe weather events. According to the authors, cities should have resilient power plans for critical public and private facilities in order to protect their most vulnerable citizens - but few cities have focused on risks and mitigation strategies associated with extended grid power outages for critical assets. This paper calls for a systematic approach to protect critical facilities with resilient power solutions, including solar photovoltaic (PV) and energy storage, combined heat-and-power (CHP), and fuel cells systems.

Assess your community's power planning against these guidelines to understand how it can be enhanced to be more comprehensive and more likely to be implemented. 

While also demonstrating that all cities confront this challenge, the report provides a list of the top cities likely to see major increases in power outage risks, as well as examples of resilient power planning from Baltimore, New York, and others. It then offers guidelines on how cities could improve power planning. 

The authors argue that, in addition to offering reliable continuous power and protection when the grid goes down, solar plus storage could also save money, generate revenue, harden the grid, protect critical equipment, and reduce reliance on harmful fossil fuel systems.

The authors point out that wealthier people have more access to resilient power; some of the most innovative energy technologies used to protect against power outages can be found in high-end private companies such as financial data centers and banks. Meanwhile, where there is greatest need to protect people from severe weather and power outages, such as in affordable housing, senior centers, and assisted-living facilities, protection is limited or outdated.

As witnessed during Superstorm Sandy, the failure of diesel generators during an emergency can lead to the evacuation of hospitals, and cause significant harm on low-income, disabled, or elderly residents. For example, losses in power can disrupt needed heating and refrigeration for food and medicine. In many instances, only a limited amount of resilient power may be necessary to allow frontline communities to shelter-in-place, thus reducing the demand on already overwhelmed first responders and emergency shelter services.

Strategies described in the report to initiate a Resilient Power Plan include:

  • Assign staff with authority and clear mandate to complete the task
  • Conduct an engineering assessment of critical power loads at select critical facilities in the city
  • Develop a viable financial plan with private developers
  • Develop and supervise an implementation and oversight plan

This paper is part of a series of reports issued through the Resilient Power Project, a joint project sponsored by the Clean Energy Group and the Meridian Institute. This project works to expand the use of clean, distributed generation for critical facilities to avoid power outages; to build more community-based clean power systems; and to reduce the adverse energy-related impacts on poor and other vulnerable populations from severe weather events.


Publication Date: March 2015

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • Lew Milford
  • Robert Sanders

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Resource Types:

  • Policy analysis/recommendations

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