Looking to Ensure A Secure Grid

Monday, June 28, 2010 @ 06:06 PM gHale


The North American bulk power system comprises more than 200,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines, thousands of generation plants, and millions of digital controls, along with more than 1,800 entities that own and operate portions of the system, with thousands more involved in the operation of distribution networks across North America.
The question is: Can North America keep the lights on during a catastrophe?
This is what a public-private report weighed when the experts looked at the risks associated with coordinated cyber and physical attacks, pandemic diseases, and high-altitude nuclear bomb detonations on North America’s power system.
According to the 120-page report issued by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), these high-impact, low-frequency (HILF) events could “cause long-term, catastrophic damage to the bulk power system.”
The ability of anyone, much less the government, to coordinate and develop mitigation strategies to address HILF events is huge issue.
“The North American bulk power system is comprised of more than 200,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines, thousands of generation plants, and millions of digital controls,” the report states. “More than 1,800 entities own and operate portions of the system, with thousands more involved in the operation of distribution networks across North America.”
Discussing an issue that transcends threats to the bulk power system, the report notes the government and the electric sector must get better at sharing information.
“The (private) sector is heavily reliant on information from the public sector for each risk discussed in this document,” the report said.
“The consequences associated with a coordinated cyber and/or physical attack could result in the physical damage or destruction of critical assets, such as generators, substation components, and large transformers,” the report said. “If conducted on a large enough scale, it is possible that the bulk power system could not recover in its present form, but would need to be restored in islands or using rotating outages where enough equipment was still available to operate the system.”
The report notes a coordinated attack has never occurred, but the potential threat must heighten DOE and NERC’s concerns.



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