Little Rock, Ark. — April 11, 2014 — Earlier today, Duane Highley, president and CEO of the Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. (AECC) and vice chairman of the Electric Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC), offered an assessment of risks facing the nation’s electric system, while challenging the notion that the U.S. grid has become antiquated at the first of several public meetings hosted by the Department of Energy for the Quadrennial Energy Review (QER).

His comments focused on grid resiliency, vulnerabilities and the strength of the existing electricity grid. According to Highley, the mission of the nation’s electric cooperatives is to be reliable. However, he added that in rural America, affordability is particularly important as the cooperatives in Arkansas serve some of the poorest families in the country. “It is our responsibility to see that their energy is delivered at the lowest possible cost,” he said.

Highley told the committee that he serves as vice chairman of the Electric Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC), a partnership between the federal government and electric industry to improve security, reliability and resiliency of the U.S. power supply system. The council works with government agencies and White House officials to improve information sharing to protect our nation’s critical infrastructure. The ESCC has worked with the government to obtain security clearances for utility leaders, allowing better awareness of potential grid security threats, he said.

He stated that the electric sector and the nuclear side of our industry is the only critical infrastructure area which has mandatory, enforceable standards for cyber-security. The disaster response plans are exercised in coordination with government, as demonstrated in last years’ NERC-led GridEx II exercise, a national disaster response exercise simulated a concurrent failure of power plants and transmission facilities across the U.S. The “outages” left millions without power. The anticipated EPA carbon dioxide regulations for existing power plants would eliminate more capacity from the grid than what was simulated in the exercise.

“I’m not saying that the grid will immediately fail, but there will be reliability impacts to the grid if this capacity is not allowed to continue to operate,” he said. “This is inevitable.”

Highley added that there is much talk about the so-called aging U.S. grid. “While I appreciate the heightened concerned about resiliency, I also want to push back on any notion that our electric grid is not up to snuff,” he said. “Our experience has demonstrated that the grid is more than ready to handle the challenges of a 21st century energy industry.”

The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas comprise 17 electric distribution cooperatives; Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (AECI), a Little Rock-based cooperative that provides services to the distribution cooperatives; and Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. (AECC), a generation and transmission cooperative. The distribution cooperatives provide electricity to approximately 500,000 homes, farms and businesses in Arkansas and surrounding states.

For additional information, contact:
Rob Roedel, Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, 501.570.2296 or rroedel@aeci.com
www.ecark.org