State Learning Lab on Energy and Critical Infrastructure Resilience

Governors’ staff and state leaders across the country collaborate and recognize the importance of resilient energy and critical infrastructure, while discussing how to best bolster state energy plans with new federal funding opportunities.

By Alex Hsu, Energy Program Policy Analyst

As storms, natural disasters, climate impacts and attempted cyberattacks increase in frequency and severity, the reliability of energy and other critical infrastructure systems is being tested. Reliable energy supplies and infrastructure operations are critical to community health, safety and economic viability, and Governors are increasingly prioritizing pre-disaster mitigation, preparedness and adaptation to reduce the potential impacts of future events to prepare their states and territories to respond and recover more quickly.

In partnership with North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper and with support from the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security & Emergency Response (DOE CESER), the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA) convened Governors’ staff and state leaders from more than 20 states and territories to NGA’s Energy and Critical Infrastructure Resilience State Learning Lab in Wilmington, North Carolina. Officials from Rhode Island to Alaska and Puerto Rico to Guam attended the event alongside national experts, industry leaders and federal officials. Participants explored policy, technical and financial solutions that can be deployed to address state- and territory-specific resilience prioritization concerns, identify cross-cutting threats to energy and critical infrastructure, support vulnerable communities, and prioritize investments to effectively improve energy and critical infrastructure resilience.

The Learning Lab kicked off with a visit to the Battleship North Carolina to learn first-hand about how this local treasure along the Cape Fear River is battling to incorporate resilience into its long-term vitality. Through the Living with Water initiative, the Battleship North Carolina is seeking to address tidal flooding and restore surrounding wetlands and shoreline habitat to protect against extreme weather events and flooding.

In welcoming attendees to North Carolina, Governor Cooper underscored the threats facing the states and the importance of statewide resilience planning, highlighting the need to develop more climate-resilient energy and transportation systems. Governor Cooper also noted Executive Order 80 and Executive Order 266, both of which are intended to improve the resilience of state infrastructure against flooding and other natural hazards. Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 80 affirms North Carolina’s commitment to addressing climate change and a transition to a clean energy economy by building weather resilience infrastructure and promoting innovative green technologies. In Executive Order 266, Governor Cooper updated the North Carolina Floodplain Management Policy by establishing new construction standards to better address the increased risk of severe storms and flooding. The Governor also called for more investments now to be able to take those steps to harden the electric grid, make sure our transportation is safer, and protect people’s homes and businesses as much as we can.

Following Governor Cooper’s remarks, leaders from North Carolina’s Office of Recovery and Resilience, State Energy Office, and Department of Transportation shared how each agency is putting the Governor’s priorities into practice with an exploration of the state’s cross-agency resilience governance and collaborative approaches to planning and project design. State officials also learned how to be more proactive in resilience planning and how to best identify the threats that their energy grids and critical infrastructure face. A panel of experts from industry and the federal government then took the stage to discuss the importance of resilient infrastructure projects and highlight strategies for state and industry leaders to prioritize “resilience by design” at the outset of new project planning.

Recognizing that resilience planning is an exercise in prioritization and coordination, participants at the Learning Lab discussed best practices for coordination with the private and utility sectors, community engagement, and supporting vulnerable and at-risk populations. As Governors continue to establish new resilience governance structures – including the establishment of state resilience offices and the appointment of new state chief resilience officers – productive partnerships with these entities have been shown to allow states and territories to effectively deploy limited resources where they are most needed and yield the greatest benefit to communities and businesses.

Recognizing the opportunity for improved resilience through new programs included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), participants engaged in dialogue with multiple federal agencies which provide resilience funding through the IIJA, including in-depth presentations from Thomas King Jr. from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Nick Shufro from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Thomas King Jr. discussed how the $62 billion in IIJA funds are being allocated to a wide range of programs for grid resilience and energy security, specifically giving a deep dive into the 40101(d) – Grid Resilience Formula Grants for State and Indian Tribes opportunity. Nick Shufro reviewed relevant programs such as the Building Resilience Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program, the National Dam Safety program, the Safeguarding Tomorrow Through Ongoing Risk Mitigation (STORM) Act, and the State and Local Cybersecurity Grant Program. Both days concluded with State Action Planning, a facilitated discussion with guided questions to assist state officials in crafting and planning new solutions for their state resilience goals. Other presenting federal agencies included Joseph Pica from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Zachary Schafer from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Debra Jordan from the Federal Communications Commission.

Please visit NGA’s Energy program webpage to find the latest publications, events, opportunities and resources. If you are interested in learning more about NGA’s Energy Learning Network or if you have questions, please contact Dan Lauf, Energy Program Director with the NGA Center, (