Numerous studies by accredited groups, such as the Congressional Electromagnetic Pulse Commission, the National Academy of Sciences, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, have concluded that solar storms and resulting geomagnetic disturbance are a critical threat to the reliability of electric grids. The recent report from the U.S. National Intelligence Council, “Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds,” presented solar geomagnetic storms as one of eight “black swan” events that could change the future course of human history.

Solar storms effecting power grids are not merely a hypothetical scenario. A moderate solar storm hit Quebec, Canada in March 1989, causing a province-wide blackout. Despite the widespread damage, in the twenty-three intervening years, the electric utility industry has not established reliability standards to protect against solar storms.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR), referred to as FERC Docket RM12-22, which would require a reliability standard to address the impact of  geomagnetic disturbances (GMD) on the reliable operation of the Bulk-Power System.

What’s your take on the FERC’s recently released NOPR? What should a reliability standard for solar storms look like?

The FERC is currently accepting comments on the NOPR until December 24th, 2012, so be sure to post your comments below soon. A non-technical summary outlining the need for protection against solar storms can be found here. Other detailed background material for policymakers can be found by searching under the previous FERC Docket “AD12-13.”