Improved Energy Contingency Planning Is Needed To Manage Future Energy Shortages More Effectively

EMD-78-106: Published: Oct 10, 1978. Publicly Released: Nov 14, 1978.

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Because of increasing energy emergencies, such as the natural gas shortage during the 1976-77 winter and the threat of a lengthy coal strike during the 1977-78 winter, efforts were initiated to develop an energy emergency contingency plan. In November 1977, the Department of Energy (DOE) issued an Energy Emergency Planning Guide to Government and State officials.

Although the guide was a reasonable first step in energy emergency planning, some of its proposals were too general, some were unrealistic, it reflected a lack of coordination, and did not assign monitoring responsibilities. The guide was of limited use to State officials and to Federal task forces established to monitor energy supplies. The Federal effort to minimize the effects of the coal strike was generally limited to monitoring energy supplies. Federal, State, and industry actions were generally responsive to emergency needs, but most States were reluctant to impose emergency measures. Aside from coal miners and certain transportation workers, unemployment attributable to the coal strike was relatively low. The dollar cost of the strike was felt mainly by consumers. Current DOE planning efforts include the development of an Energy Emergency Information System. DOE will continue to use contractors although contractual services for the planning guide were not very satisfactory.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should develop a Federal interagency energy emergency agreement to designate: actions to be taken by Federal agencies and who is responsible for each action; staffing, organization, and responsibilities of task forces; candid reporting of energy situations; encouragement of planning based on regional approaches; public hearings on proposed Federal regulations for energy allocation; and closer monitoring of contractual services. He should critically review the DOE planning process to make sure that: only those needs that cannot be met by State and industry programs are being considered, State needs for Federal assistance are met, sufficient details on Federal programs are included in the 1978-79 contingency plan, proposed actions can realistically be implemented, a specific plan is provided to respond to an energy emergency, proposed actions involving energy industries are approved by energy technical specialists, and development of the Energy Emergency Management Information System is given top priority. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission should establish procedures for monitoring costs of wholesale power transactions during emergencies and make sure that utilities have appropriate rate schedules.

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