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Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

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Commissioner Moeller Statement
April 30, 2012
Docket No. AD12-13-000

Solar Disturbances to Earth’s Geomagnetic Field

"As I stated immediately after the March earthquake in Japan, “[o]ur nation has already made great advances in its preparation for what are sometimes called ‘high-impact, low-frequency’ events.” (Statement) While the consequences of unusually severe solar disturbances are not completely understood --- because no event on the scale under consideration today has ever happened to the modern power grid --- the efforts of scientists and engineers to understand these solar phenomena and how they might impact electricity assets are welcomed.

Low probability events that are not fully understood can radically disrupt our lives, and we need to be prepared. To properly allocate this nation’s limited resources, we necessarily consider this matter in the context of our many statutory duties at the Commission. Of highest priority, this Commission must do all that it can to ensure that the lights stay on as coal plants are retired and retrofitted in compliance with recently issued EPA regulations. These regulations have already been issued, and are not low-likelihood events impacting the power grid --- they are a certainty.

The benefits of clean air and water, and the costs and challenges associated with EPA compliance, will be driving the agenda of this Commission for many years. Nevertheless, this Commission must still allocate a degree of time and effort to other issues, including issues that are not completely understood by science, to ensure that we are as prepared as reasonably possible for all severe disasters --- earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, solar flares, droughts, infectious plagues, large meteor impacts, nuclear war, etc. --- that could radically impact our lives.

Given its statutory function, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) has ongoing work related to these matters, and I look forward to hearing how NERC plans to address such events."