Tags: grid | power | FERC | substation

Government Study: Power Could Easily Be Knocked Out Across Country

Thursday, 13 Mar 2014 12:05 PM

By Dan Weil

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Sabotage of just nine of the United States' 55,000 electric-transmission substations on a hot summer day could turn out the lights across the country for weeks, according to a study from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), The Wall Street Journal reported.

That's because a few substations do much of the work in making sure that power is transmitted through big areas.

The substations increase the voltage of electricity so it can travel long distances and then cut the voltage to manageable levels as the electricity approaches homes and businesses.

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"This would be an event of unprecedented proportions," Ross Baldick, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, told The Journal.

There aren't any rules to make utilities protect crucial substations, except those at nuclear power plants, the paper reported. Government officials recently said they would consider implementing some rules.

"There are probably less than 100 critical high voltage substations on our grid in this country that need to be protected from a physical attack," ex-FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff told The Journal. "It is neither a monumental task, nor is it an inordinate sum of money that would be required to do so."

He also discussed the threat on "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV last month.

"Currently, we are very vulnerable to this type of a physical attack," Wellinghoff said. "It's been demonstrated to us now that there are people who have the training capability to perpetrate this type of attack and execute it."

FERC Acting Chairman Cheryl LaFleur said in a statement that The Journal's report of "sensitive information is highly irresponsible."

"While there may be value in a general discussion of the steps we take to keep the grid safe, the publication of sensitive material about the grid crosses the line from transparency to irresponsibility, and gives those who would do us harm a roadmap to achieve malicious designs. The American people deserve better."

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