Who keeps the lights on in a government shutdown?

The Department of Energy (DOE) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) continue to operate under “normal conditions,” according to officials from the two agencies.

An extended shutdown could force a reduction of staff at the two agencies that work together to ensure the security and reliability of the nation’s electric grid, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center.

FERC’s shutdown plan lists six activities as essential, including “continued monitoring of the reliability of the bulk power system and threats to energy infrastructures under the Commission’s jurisdiction.”

That includes real-time operations of the bulk power system and a 24/7 emergency message notification system to alert the five FERC commissioners in the case of emergencies. The plan allocates four employees to this function who “will perform a minimum level of these oversight roles, to monitor for urgent matters.”

Of course, none of this directly affects the state and local agencies and nongovernmental organizations that operate the grid. They are the ones that generate and transmit electricity while DOE and FERC monitor, coordinate, regulate and research.

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