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Assistant Professor, EECS
Washington State University
Cybersecurity threats to the electric grid are no longer hypothetical. While attacks impacting grid operations have only been reported in Ukraine, DHS recently identified intrusions into the U.S. grid. Fortunately, substantial progress has been made in recent years to protect the grid. While the North American Energy Reliability Corporation (NERC) has implemented bulk grid cybersecurity requirements for the past decade, state utility commissions are increasingly defining requirements for low-voltage distribution grids. Furthermore, NERC-led initiatives, such as national response exercises (GridEX) and information sharing programs (E-ISAC) help ensure utilities are prepared to respond to similar events. At the federal level, the… [more]View Discussion
Foundation for Resilient Societies
Through the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Congress formed a hybrid system for setting electric grid reliability and security standards; a private corporation, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), writes grid standards, while a government agency, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) reviews and approves NERC’s standards. FERC and NERC appear to have a close working relationship in jointly developing grid standards. During an April 10, 2014 Senate Energy Committee hearing “Keeping The Lights On—Are We Doing Enough To Ensure The Reliability And Security Of The U.S. Electric Grid?” both Cheryl LaFleur, Acting Chair of FERC, and Gerry Cauley,… [more]View Discussion
Cyberattacks are occurring with greater frequency and severity, and could have enormous impacts on huge swaths of the highly interconnected electric grid. Despite the serious risks posed by cyber attacks, insurance coverage for utility companies is often not comprehensive or too expensive, as reported by a recent EnergyWire article. The article goes on to explain that this is “partly because insurance underwriters have had trouble fleshing out risk assessments with hard numbers. Utilities are tight-lipped about their cyber vulnerabilities for fear of legal repercussions (and exposing themselves to new threats).” The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity Insurance Workshop Readout Report explains… [more]View Discussion
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… [more]View Discussion