Center for Risk and Crisis Management

The University of Oklahoma

University of Oklahoma, Center for Risk and Crisis Management
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Energy Assurance Project

One of the critical factors that governments must address is providing a reliable source of energy to meet the demands of the citizens. In some more developing countries, the focus may be on securing the infrastructure and sources necessary to provide the energy, while in more developed countries, maintenance of current systems and sustainability are more pressing concerns. In the United States, Energy Assurance (EA) is not focused on the creation of a new in system of infrastructure, but rather on improve the current system, diversify energy sources, and to build resiliency into the system. As populations expand and threats to the providing of the energy manifest themselves, the United States government has sought to protect the country from severe energy shortages, which if occurring on a large enough scale, could effectively cripple wide segments of the United States.

The Department of Energy (DOE) has been tasked with the concerns of the US energy supply, as noted in their mission statement: “to ensure America's security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental, and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions.” As part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), funding was made available to the states through the DOE specifically in order to help states develop plans to mitigate and respond effectively to energy related incidents.

The OU Research Team undertook a multi-part analysis of relevant energy assurance planning in the State of Oklahoma with the intent to inform the state with a best practice analysis and risk assessment, systematically evaluating other state energy assurance plans and providing an Energy Assurance Planning document with applicable options for Oklahoma.

The following sections detail the various phases of the project undertook by the CRCM team. It is important to note that during each of the phases, stakeholder engagement and input was critical to the success of the project. In the early portion of the project, meetings were held with both state and private organizations to inform them as to the goal of the project, and to create relationships that would foster a dialogue amongst the team and stakeholders. The goal of the project was to not create an entirely new system of responding to energy emergencies, but rather to document the existing processes. Input from these different groups was critical throughout the entire project.

Project Phases

Phase 1

When thinking about how to plan for energy emergencies, two things must be considered are the probability (Likelihood of an Event) and the consequences (Severity of an Event). In order to have a firm understanding of these plausible scenarios that the state must contend with, the team conducted a systematic analysis of Oklahoma Energy incidents that have occurred in the last ten years. The frequency, consequence, and plausibility of energy events in the state from this type of analysis allowed the team to focus on energy events which either frequently impact the state or those events which while occurring infrequently, pose a high consequence if they do occur. Identifying the high frequency and high consequence plausible events facing the state, the team was able to construct an EA plan which addresses these key components from their risk assessment.

The methodology employed to conduct this historical event analysis was done in the form of a review of newspaper articles from the Tulsa World and The Daily Oklahoman. The systematic analysis covered stories pertaining to energy incidents in the state, i.e. natural gas explosion, electricity outage, etc., with the stories related to these types of events logged into a database. Articles were coded according to categories such as type of energy impacted, threat environment, scope of incident, cause of incident and duration of event. The analysis yielded 339 total stories over a ten year period from January of 2000 to May of 2010, with 203 unique events documented.

The following graphs offer an overview of the findings from this phase of the project.

Graph showing articles by energy type

Four graphs showing incident threat by energy type

Four graphs showing incident seasonality by energy type

Phase 2

The team conducted an assessment of nationwide “best practices” in energy supply assurance by examining accessible reports, published papers and other documents. The focus was on identification of the assurance practices that have been identified as most appropriate for providing energy supply assurance for the full range of categories of threats to energy systems. All 50 states were contacted and the following map details the plans which were received for review. The analysis consisted of a systematic, nationwide analysis of state Energy Assurance planning efforts, with attention to varying features of such plans. The research team collected information on the application and success of the varying state EA plans, and will provide recommendations on plan components that are of particular relevance to the State of Oklahoma. We compared plans from a diverse group of twelve states that vary in length, detail, complexity, and content. In order to capture this variety, we compared these twelve state plans along eleven different dimensions, which have been singled out by the NASEO, DOE, and the NGA as important elements of a state energy assurance plan.

Map of U.S. showing the plans which were received for review

Phase 3

Once the team had compiled the best practices and state risk analysis, we began to develop an Energy Assurance planning document. The construction of the planning document was based on the results of Phases 1 and 2 as well as from follow-up discussion group of knowledgeable energy planning officials. The team incorporated options and recommendations for an Oklahoma Energy Assurance Plan that resulted from the work. This document consists of a complete draft EA plan, from which state officials can select preferred options.

Phase 4

The team developed a draft plan that was circulated by the Corporation Commission (OCC) to both state and industry officials. Meetings were held to discuss the draft plan with representatives from these groups. The CRCM team took the feedback received from these meetings into consideration as revisions were made to the plan.

The EA plan developed by the team will be tested by utilizing table top exercises. These exercises will present incidents which would, if they actually occurred, require state response. In this response phase, the plan’s rigor can be verified. If any areas of the plan are found to be insufficient or could be improved, these exercises allow for identification and amendment. The testing phase of the plan allows for real world application without real world consequences. Any necessary modifications to the plan will be done by the OU team before it is turned over to the OCC.

Studying Risk,
Risk Perception,
& Crisis Management

An interdisciplinary research center

The CRCM is an interdisciplinary research center at the University of Oklahoma that studies risk, risk perception and crisis management in several substantive domains. The areas of research interest and expertise include energy and the environment, weather and climate, national security and terrorism, and the social dynamics surrounding complex controversial technologies.

New pathways for understanding

The CRCM seeks to develop new pathways for understanding and managing technological and environmental risks. The CRCM maintains an expanding network of affiliated researchers from other universities, national laboratories, and federal agencies to assist in both defining and utilizing new and unexpected opportunities for research and public policy analysis.

Learn more about the CRCM.