After gunfire damaged two electrical substations in Moore County, N.C., leaving 45,000 people without power in early December, a team of Federal energy sector regulators has taken action to conduct a review of electric grid security protocols.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Dec. 15 issued an order directing the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) to create a report detailing the effectiveness of current power grid security guidelines.

Along with cybersecurity concerns, physical security vulnerabilities are central to critical infrastructure protection in the utility sector.

Mark Hegerle, director of FERC’s Division of Operations and Planning Standards, talked about the importance of looking at power grid security protocols at an agency public meeting on Dec. 15.

“In recent months, there’s been an increase in reports of physical attacks on electric substations that in some instances have resulted in thousands of customer outages,” stated Hegerle.

“In light of the need for continued vigilance against physical threats to the bulk power system, the draft order would require NERC to provide an assessment of the effectiveness of the physical security reliability standard,” stated Hegerle.

The order tasks NERC with looking into:

  • The adequacy of applicability criteria set forth in the existing Physical Security Reliability Standard CIP-014-3 (Physical Security Reliability Standard);
  • The required risk assessment set forth in the Physical Security Reliability Standard; and
  • Whether a minimum level of physical security protections should be required for all bulk-power system transmission stations and substations and primary control centers.

FERC asked NERC to provide its results within 120 days.

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Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.