How Utilities Can Help Protect the Grid

We talk often about the vulnerability of the country’s three electrical grids. And we see evidence of that lack of dependability almost every time extreme weather strikes.

What we don’t discuss often enough is how important it is that the grids be fortified. A big reason for why they aren’t is how expensive it would be to strengthen them.

The billions of dollars required to harden networks are just not in the country’s budget. And unfortunately, not enough lawmakers seem to understand how crucial it is to protect the grids from violent weather.

Not to mention from cyber and physical attacks, accidents, massive solar flares and other unforeseen circumstances.

A natural target

Rogue states, foreign powers, terrorists… they all know how powerful the U.S. military is.

They are much more likely to attack our electrical grids than they are to launch bombs at us. Sending us back to the 19th century with a long-lasting blackout would accomplish their goals.

The grid is a natural target. The energy sector is among the top three most attacked critical infrastructure sectors in the U.S.

Major security breaches have occurred with Apple, Facebook, Google Plus, Yahoo, JP Morgan Chase, AT&T, Bank of America, Citigroup, Target and many other companies. These breaches have raised red flags.

Grids need protection

If someone figures out how to knock out one of the country’s electrical grids for just a few days, it will have a major impact on us.

In fact, it will disrupt a wide variety of services and endanger lives. Especially those in hospitals or other healthcare facilities that may exhaust their backup power supplies.

So, it’s essential that we figure out how to protect our electrical grids. And the sooner the better.

According to the Wall Street Journal and other media sources, the best way to do this might be through the work of our power utilities. They can take measures to make their systems more difficult to penetrate.

The 3 R’s – response, recovery, resilience

It won’t be easy or inexpensive, but here are a few of the things these utilities need to do now before it’s too late.

They need to invest in effective response and recovery capabilities. And in the overall resilience of the grids.

This will involve a couple of things. One is constructing a stable and reliable communications network. Another is putting extensive cyber security measures in place.

And that means measures that can virtually guarantee continuous operations and real-time performance. It also means protecting every device that connects to the grid.

Reducing power outages

In addition to electrical utilities working to strengthen the grids, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is getting involved.

Its goal is to modernize the grid. This will hopefully result in lower energy bills and more energy choices. And fewer and shorter power outages.

According to the DOE, an estimated 90 percent of the minutes during which customers experience power outages is caused by issues with the distribution system.

That means the mix of substations and power lines that bring electricity from power plants to homes and businesses.

Modernization the key

A more modern grid will be able to pinpoint outages and restore service quicker. Without calls from customers.

Grid modernization also includes hardening physical infrastructure. And putting systems in place to reduce the risk of energy disruption.

That will help the grids withstand and recover from climate-related threats. Not to mention from cyber and physical attacks.

The overall goal is to have a steady flow of electrical energy available for Americans regardless of what happens. Or at the very least, to restore it more quickly after it is disrupted.

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