City partnering with Dept. of Energy, NJ utilities to develop resilient electric grid

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Thursday June 13, 2013

City of Hoboken

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Community: City of Hoboken, US Dept of Energy, NJ Board of Public Utilities & PSE&G Partner to Develop Resilient Electric Grid

The City of Hoboken, U.S. Department of Energy, N.J. Board of Public Utilities, and PSE&G are partnering to design an energy resilient “smart grid” to improve Hoboken’s resiliency to power outages.

In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability is supporting Sandia National Laboratories to aid the City of Hoboken in boosting the resiliency of its electric grid. This critical partnership brings the deep expertise of the national labs to address the critical needs of our nation’s electric grid.

“We are honored to partner with the Department of Energy, Board of Public Utilities, and PSE&G to make Hoboken a model for resilient electric grids using 21st century technology,” said Mayor Dawn Zimmer. “Through this partnership, Hoboken will build on its proud history of innovation in technology by becoming one of the first non-military applications of Sandia’s design methodology.”

“We are proud of the reliability of our system, which has been nationally recognized,” said Ralph LaRossa, PSE&G president and COO. “But the extreme weather in the past two years calls for extraordinary measures to harden our systems. PSE&G is pleased to support this unique effort to improve the resiliency of the city’s critical infrastructure. This effort is a perfect complement to our proposed Energy Strong filing, which would protect Hoboken’s substations from the type of water damage we had during Sandy.”

“Today’s agreement is yet another step in the State’s continuing efforts to address safety and reliability concerns related to the delivery of electric and gas service to New Jersey ratepayers,” said Bob Hanna, President of the N.J. Board of Public Utilities. “This collaboration will enable us to assess the potential benefits and costs associated with implementing distributed generation and smart-grid technologies to improve energy reliability and resiliency in the Hoboken service area and to apply the lessons learned to other cities and towns across New Jersey.”

Sandia will bring their Energy Surety Design Methodology to partner with the City of Hoboken, N.J. Board of Public Utilities, PSE&G, Greener by Design and other stakeholders to develop a comprehensive plan to meet the critical needs of Hoboken in future events such as storms and other disruptions to the electric grid.

The design methodology uses advanced, smart grid technologies and distributed and renewable generation and storage resources as a way to improve the reliability, security, and resiliency of the electric grid.

Signing event remarks from Mayor Dawn Zimmer:

“Today, as we sign our energy agreement, we officially launch an energy resiliency partnership between the City of Hoboken, the U.S. Deparment of Energy, Sandia National Labs, PSE&G and the N.J. Board of Public Utilities.

Thank you so much to our DOE representatives, Ravi Gorur and Dan Ton, Ralph LaRossa, President & COO of PSE&G, and Robert Hanna, President of the BPU for being here with us today and making a commitment to collaborate on this smart grid energy project that could help to ensure communities like Hoboken are safer through future storms.

Thank you also to my Resiliency Team members Stephen Marks and Brandy Forbes and the Greener by Design team headed by Adam Zellner for working so hard on this crucial project.

As we all heard, Hoboken was devastated by Hurricane Sandy, so when HUD Secretary Donovan and Bill Bryan from the Department of Energy came to visit our City, I shared our residents’ challenges and eagerly offered Hoboken as a learning laboratory for energy resiliency. I have had the honor of serving on Secretary Donovan’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, and I want to thank Michael Passante and his team for being here with us, and I thank them all for choosing Hoboken as an energy learning center. They wanted to do a pilot program for a smaller scale City impacted by Sandy, and Hoboken was a perfect match. After all that we went through, I was more than happy to partner with them on this exciting project.

I also want to give a huge thank you to Governor Christie for supporting this project through the BPU’s involvement. Ultimately, I am determined to implement a smart grid and microgrid system for Hoboken. The State and the BPU are very important partners for this hefty energy goal of mine since it could involve the need for some adjustments to the regulatory process in order to achieve our objectives. Thank you to Senator Menendez and Congressman Sires for their support of this project – they wanted to be here but they are in Washington today.

Finally, I want to give a very special thank you to the senior from Church Towers who made me even more determined to fight harder for Hoboken. One evening in the midst of Sandy, I went knocking on doors to bring food and tell residents about how Brad Paisley’s chef was going to be cooking up a storm in Church Square Park. He heard about Hoboken on the news and drove up from Pennsylvania with a truck filled with food and rolled out his portable kitchen.

This senior thanked me for the food, but asked incredulously in tears about the management of her building: “How could they leave us completely in the dark? Look, not even the exit sign is lit up,” she exclaimed. “I am afraid to go down the stairs because I could fall.” As she cried in my arms, I assured her I would fight to find a solution. With her story and so many others like hers in mind, I am proud that a little over seven months after Sandy, we have created an energy partnership and agreement that will help to keep everyone safer through the next storm.

As we stand here today, in this basement conference room that was the pulsing heart of an emergency command center, I want to briefly explain what we mean by a smart energy grid and how it could help our community.

Having a smart grid means designing an electrical grid that keeps the power on through the storm for our most essential services. Our first responders at the Police and Fire Departments and here at City Hall must have power through the storms so they can effectively respond to all of the emergencies. It means keeping the power on at Hoboken University Medical Center so residents have an emergency center open and available when that emergency situation strikes. It means keeping North Hudson Sewerage Authority operational so that our flood pump keeps pumping out flood waters and our sewage can be treated instead of backing up onto our streets.

Having a smart grid means making sure the hallway lights and exit signs are lit for my seniors who may not have the resources to evacuate. This smart grid, possibly connected to a microgrid system, could power emergency LED hallway lights and the community rooms where seniors gathered every day to share meals and shelter together through Hurricane Sandy. It could possibly power the elevators to make one trip down in the morning and one up at night so seniors are not stuck in their apartments waiting for the power to go back on.

It could power the fire suppression system so we can avoid the unbelievably dangerous situation we had throughout Hoboken: Apartments filled with candles, no fire suppression or alert system, and irresponsible property owners who failed to even implement fire watches.

Build stronger, and yes, communities like Hoboken could safely shelter in place. During Hurricane Sandy I was on a conference call with President Obama together with other State and community leaders, and the President was discussing the need to move people into shelters. I pointed out that in urban communities like Hoboken we needed to shelter in place because most people simply would not go to the shelters. President Obama listened and got us generators as quickly as he could, and now we are building on the sheltering in place approach with this project.

This energy resiliency partnership is an essential component of a comprehensive approach designed to protect Hoboken. Our plan includes more flood pumps along our waterfront, large detention basins to retain rainwater under land we are trying to buy for parks, and expanded implementation of city-wide green infrastructure to capture rain water in every way possible. It also includes a series of protective barriers and hardening of existing buildings to protect Hoboken at the north and south from future storm surges.

Since Sandy, Hoboken has had several major flood events. Unfortunately, when heavy rains and high tide come at the same time, we get flooded, including our PSE&G substations. We have applied for grant funding for our comprehensive flood plan, and I am very glad that PSE&G’s Energy Strong program includes a proposed action plan for Hoboken’s substations. I am a huge fan of that plan.

As I participated in a crisis simulation workshop at a UN Conference on Resiliency a few weeks ago, I reflected on that fact that in addition to getting funding for the pumps, ensuring that Hoboken is energy resilient has to be my top priority for both our residents and our businesses that were so hard hit by the loss of power and the flooding. One way or another, I am determined to get this done by some combination of grants and public-private partnerships.”

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