SAI: Strengthening Energy Infrastructure Resilience and Equity During Extreme Cold Weather Events

  • Mason, Charles F. (CoPI)
  • Lo Prete, Chiara (PI)
  • Dubey, Anamika (CoPI)
  • Mason, Charles F. (CoPI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


Strengthening American Infrastructure (SAI) is an NSF Program seeking to stimulate human-centered fundamental and potentially transformative research that strengthens America’s infrastructure. Effective infrastructure provides a strong foundation for socioeconomic vitality and broad quality of life improvement. Strong, reliable, and effective infrastructure spurs private-sector innovation, grows the economy, creates jobs, makes public-sector service provision more efficient, strengthens communities, promotes equal opportunity, protects the natural environment, enhances national security, and fuels American leadership. To achieve these goals requires expertise from across the science and engineering disciplines. SAI focuses on how knowledge of human reasoning and decision-making, governance, and social and cultural processes enables the building and maintenance of effective infrastructure that improves lives and society and builds on advances in technology and engineering.Electricity and heating needs spike during extreme cold weather events. Natural gas pipeline utilization approaches the maximum capacity during these periods, and power plants may not receive enough natural gas for electricity generation because gas distribution companies hold the highest priority of service. This was prudent during an era when the primary use for gas was space heating and not electricity generation. That landscape has changed, with electricity now more commonly used for heating in the residential and commercial sectors. This creates a disadvantage for customers who rely on electricity for heating because the priority for natural gas distribution is not for electricity generation. Recent electricity crises demonstrate the costly human impacts that power outages coupled with natural gas supply shortfalls can have during extreme cold weather events. Importantly, adverse consequences of cold weather outages tend to fall on historically overburdened and underserved communities. These disparities are expected to become more pronounced as residential electricity consumption grows through 2050. This SAI project investigates the complex challenges raised by the increasing interdependence between the electric power and natural gas sectors in the United States.This project develops a framework that integrates energy systems modeling, mechanism design and stakeholder engagement to improve allocation of natural gas between local distribution companies and power plants during extreme cold weather events. The integrative research approach develops models to assess damages to key components of the energy infrastructure during extreme cold weather events. The models are used to simulate the joint operations of energy infrastructure during winter storms, and assess the associated impacts on costs, emissions, and power outages at the county level in a regional test system. Potential policy solutions that enhance efficiency and equity of gas allocation during severe cold weather events are proposed and evaluated. The research is deeply integrated with a robust engagement program involving a range of key stakeholders, including energy regulators, non-profit and community-based organizations, energy companies, and electric grid operators. The research and stakeholder engagement advances the understanding of solutions to strengthen U.S. energy infrastructure resilience and promotes equitable access to this infrastructure.This award is supported by the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic (SBE) Sciences and the Directorate for Engineering.This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
Effective start/end date9/15/238/31/26


  • National Science Foundation: $750,000.00


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