Friday, August 22, 2014

An insurance group reports that electric utilities are making progress in hardening the grid

Business Insurance, an industry newsletter for which I have a print subscription, has an important cover story in the Aug. 18, 2014 issue, “Protecting grid from terrorists gains priority”, by Judy Greenwald, link here

The key point in the story seems to be the adoption of a new mandatory reliability standard designed and administered by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, under the supervision of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, with standards document here

The physical attack on the substation near Sam Jose, CA in April 2013 still has not been solved, and no group has issued a statement indicating any specific political motive.  Several other smaller substation attacks have occurred around the country in the past year.

Utilities do have insurance against property damage, not against business interruption (outages) themselves.   It sometimes can matter if an attack was politically motivated.

The article indicates that utilities have made considerable improvements to grid hardness since the northeastern power blackout in August, 2003.  These improvements sound significant in view of some editorials in conservative newspapers indicating that the grid is not prepared, and with international tensions (and the possibility that ISIS could replace Al  Qaeda as a source of sleeper cells) flaring this year.  In 2013, remember, Congress introduced HR 2417, which did not pass, to begin to address electric grid vulnerability to large events like big solar storms or possibly high altitude nuclear EMP blasts, which Oak Ridge National Laboratory and National Academies of Sciences and even NASA have written papers on in the part few years, and about which there are a few fiction novels.  

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