Wednesday 12 March 2014

After the last post on the attack on a US sub-station and Jon Wellinghoff’s warnings I was alerted to another development.  Firstly there is still no news on who perpetrated the attack.  Secondly FERC has issued an order to the “North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) to develop reliability standards requiring owners and operators of the Bulk-Power System to address risks due to physical security threats and vulnerabilities.”

 

I had to remind myself that NERC is “a not-for-profit entity whose mission is to ensure the reliability of the bulk power system in North America” and that “entities under NERC’s jurisdiction are the users, owners and operators of the bulk power system, which serves more than 334 million people” across the US, Canada and the northern portion of Baja California, Mexico.  A big job indeed when the system covers 400,000 circuit miles and 55,000 transmission sub-stations.

 

To quote from the FERC press release; “The reliability standards directed by today’s order require owners and operators of the Bulk-Power System to take at least three steps to protect physical security. First, owners and operators must perform a risk assessment of their system to identify facilities that, if rendered inoperable or damaged, could have a critical impact on the operation of the interconnection through instability, uncontrolled separation, or cascading failures of the Bulk-Power System. Second, owners and operators of critical facilities must evaluate potential threats and vulnerabilities to those facilities. Finally, owners and operators must develop and implement a security plan to address potential threats and vulnerabilities. NERC has 90 days to submit the proposed standards.”

 

Of course the potential cost of beefing up physical security is enormous and there needs to be prioritization.  There also needs to be action on cyber security and using intelligent grid concepts to improve resilience.  No doubt this story will run and run – and of course the European grid system has the same issues.

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Dr Steven Fawkes

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