What can you do to secure the grid?
First, Get smart. You can track the threats at www.securethegrid.com. When industry and government are challenged with hard questions by informed voters we are one step closer to securing the grid. Educating your sphere of influence is the next step.
The electrical industry does a great job delivering energy to America each day but someone still needs the authority to make sure that energy and the lives depending on it are safe and secure. The electrical industry lobby has a conflict of interest when it comes to securing the grid. They have millions at their disposal to downplay threats and re-assure the public of their reliability.
Education and knowledge in the scientific community within the electrical industry will help to secure the grid. That is a big part of what the secure the grid coalition does. After 11 government studies, established and uncontroversial threat assessments, and the advice of the nations top scientists, the industry has failed to harden itself against major solar storms, physical attacks, cyber attacks, and EMP attack.
Because much of military grid protection practices were classifies for so long, there is a lag in the scientific and security community about threats to the grid and what it takes to mitigate them. Civil society groups without profit motive have been filling in the gap to educate policy makers and state legislators on what they can do to protect the grid. Many of those groups form the Secure the Grid Coalition. You can learn about what those groups are doing on our Resources page and find out how you can help.
Policy makers on a local level have already begun to get smart and challenge the electrical industry to higher standards. They can use your support. Tell your elected officials that you want them to be a part of the solution.
- On June 11, 2013, the State of Maine passed the first legislation in the nation to protect the electric grid against electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and geomagnetic disturbance (GMD). EMP’s, such as high-altitude nuclear explosions, and GMD’s, such as major solar flares and storms, have the potential to critically disrupt or destroy the electric grid.
- On 03/10/2015, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed a bill requiring the commonwealth’s Department of Emergency Management (DEM) to plan for responses to disasters caused by electromagnetic pulses (EMPs). The requirement is part of the DEM’s overall mission of disaster preparedness.
- Arizona implemented a requirement in 2014 for its emergency management agency to incorporate EMP preparedness into its disaster planning. Louisiana’s preparedness office is examining the possible effects of an EMP event. And Kentucky set up in 2013 an interagency working group to examine EMP preparedness efforts.
- In Texas’ last legislative session House Bill 2289 in the House and Senate Bill 1398 dealt with electrical grid protections but were blocked by committee chairs who received large donations from electrical utility companies and associations.
The most fundamental reason the grid is not protected with currently available hardening technology is that no one is in charge or taking initiative. The fact that the grid is owned by the private sector (for which the DoD depends on 99% of its operational capability according to congressional testimony) is the main excuse for government inaction.
Conflict of interest: Those who own and make money from the electrical grid should not be in charge of regulating safety and security. The electrical industry spends millions a year on research and lobbyists who promote low standards and bad science.
What should be done?
1. The vulnerability of the U.S. electrical grid must be understood as a national security issue alone. The Critical Infrastructure Protection Act is a good first step. Leaders in the Executive branch must deeply understand and own this issue as members of both parties do in Congress.
2. Urgency by Congress and the executive branch to get the grid hardened will require empowered enforcement of safety regulations that do not currently exist under the FERC/ NERC arrangement. Physical hardening of the grid is possible and affordable. The electrical industry needs the equivalent of the Nuclear Regulatory Agency or an NTSB.
3. Hardening the grid is a deterrent. When the grid is hardened attacking it will no longer be an asymmetric advantage or a desirable and cost effective option for adversaries.