Texas Senator Bob Hall hears testimony on Senate Bill 1398 from Kevin Freeman and Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy before the Natural Resources & Economic Development Committee of the Texas Senate. SB 1398 sets scientific and security based standards for electrical grid protection higher than the self regulating industry standards. Under current regulations there is no goal to make the Texas grid withstand and recover from a catastrophic system wide event. The text can be found here
The Texas hearing serves as a vignette for the one of the most fundamental reasons that the nation’s electrical grid is not protected to a level that keeps the public safe in proportion to known threats for which the military has been protecting its critical infrastructure assets for decades. Namely, that those responsible are self-regulating for quarterly earnings interests and not public safety interests. Because the electrical grid is privately owned, the government does not have the power to set realistic safety standards under current law.
Here we also see the testimony of the president of the Association of Electric Companies of Texas testify against the bill. Electrical utility associations predictably lobby against safety regulation of critical electrical infrastructure often against the interest of their members and share holders arguing that they have everything under control. In the video you can see that the electrical utility representative acknowledges the threats addressed in the legislation but is unable to claim that the Texas grid is protected under the current regulatory regime.
“We have everything under control”
“We are not really prepared for a solar storm or EMP attack”
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Testimony from Walter Bartel of Center Point Energy: Bartel describes risk based strategies, down plays solar weather risks, and points out steps taken to minimize damage from EMP. When asked the percentage of survivability could be ensured under current precautions and regulations Bartel admitted that the Texas grid could not survive an EMP attack.
Testimony by Mark Carpenter of Oncor: Carpenter argued that to recover from an EMP attack you would have to harden everything because even if generators recovered from an EMP there would be no place to send the energy.
From this statement, industry lobbyists are suggesting that there is no point to hardening their own critical facilities to a survivable standard. In such an event there will be no recovery without generation. In fact, it is a lot easier restore neighborhoods to a power source than to restore the power source after a disaster. Further, there will be military assets needed to maintain order that will require power from the civilian grid.
This argument, however, points to a larger problem. The primary element of the vulnerability of the old grid system is interconnectedness. Power generation technology for the future is innovating towards hardened micro grids that can solve their own black start problems after an event and provide for local communities. Major E commerce corporations do this now. They have taken measures for their own survivability but their customers depend on the old grid system. The only thing slowing down this market trend is the electrical utility lobby.