Disruption of the U.S. power system can impose great economic costs, and in some circumstance can endanger lives. However, power outages have in general not given rise to “terror,” even on the part of those affected.
Chapter 1 identifies five different types of individuals and subnational groups that might wish to attack the transmission or distribution system. Of these, the one of greatest concern for this report is terrorist groups with significant capabilities and resources whose intent is to kill large numbers of people or cause widespread societal damage or harm.
Although there are many examples of terrorist and military attacks on power systems elsewhere in the world, to date international terrorists have shown limited interest in attacking the U.S. power grid. However, that should not be a basis for complacency. An attack that disrupted power across a wide geographic region and for an extended period could impose costs of hundreds of billions of dollars. If such attacks were repeated several times, or undertaken in conjunction with more conventional terrorist attacks designed to kill people, their impact could be considerably magnified.
Because electric power transmission and distribution systems are spread all across the country, often in very remote locations, they are vulnerable to attack. As explained in chapter 2, this vulnerability is exacerbated by the fact that, after years of underinvestment, these systems are already under stress and are now facing new demands for wheeling power in a competitive market that the system was not designed to support. As the discussions in Chapters 3, 4, and 5 make clear, knowledgeable terrorists could inflict considerable damage.
Chapters 6 and 7 explain that many of the modifications needed to reduce vulnerability are improvements that should be made to upgrade the system even without any threat of terrorism. Utilities, federal and state regulators, and others are gradually figuring out how to provide the needed incentives and cover the costs of such improvements in the new restructured industry.
There are also a variety of upgrades and redesigns that could be undertaken primarily to make the system more robust in the face of terrorism and to facilitate rapid recovery should an attack occur. But prioritizing and paying for such changes poses significant methodological and institutional challenges. First, expensive upgrades undertaken primarily in response to the threat of terrorism should be made only after a careful quantitative probabilistic assessment of costs and benefits. Second, the risk from terrorism faced by most individual utilities is smaller than the collective risk faced by U.S. society as a whole. Thus, the level of protective investment that may be optimal from the perspective of the national interest may be significantly higher than the level that makes sense for individual firms. This problem is not unique to the power industry, and it is a problem that has not yet been adequately addressed for any of this country’s vulnerable infrastructures that are owned and operated by private firms.
In the case of electric power delivery, there are several areas where federal funding is clearly justified and where adequate preparation for possible terrorist attacks is not likely to occur without federal involvement. The most obvious of these is investment in the development, construction, and stockpiling of compact, easily transported high-voltage restoration transformers and other key equipment of long delivery time. Conventional high-voltage transformers are the single most vulnerable component of the transmission and distribution system. They are difficult to move, not stockpiled in great numbers, and for the most part no longer made in this country. Acquiring new ones could take months or even longer if a substantial number were needed. Through the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the industry has done initial design work on a compact, easily transported replacement transformer. However, the development, construction, and stockpiling of a significant number of these devices will almost certainly not occur without substantial federal support and funding.
Clearly, U.S. utilities and state and federal governments should take all reasonable steps to ensure that the nation’s
transmission and distribution systems are robust in the face of possible attack and can be rapidly restored if such an attack does ever occur. But that alone is not sufficient. Our society continues to become ever more dependent on electric power. Even without the threat of terrorism, there is a risk of occasional power outages, some of which will be widespread and may last for some time. Terrorism increases the probability of both the extent and the duration of such outages and could cause them to occur at particularly inconvenient or damaging moments. Thus, in addition to strengthening the grid, society should also focus on identifying critical services and developing strategies to keep them operating in the event of power outages—be they accidental or the result of terrorist attack. These issues are discussed in chapter 8, and recommendations are offered there to reduce future vulnerability.
There are many technologies and strategies that could be employed to make the power system more robust in the face of terrorist attack, speed service restoration after an attack, and continue the provision of critical services while the power is out. They all cost money, often much more money than society can afford. The best way to make existing approaches cheaper, and to develop new, even more effective and affordable approaches, is through research. chapter 9 discusses the current state of research for electric power and presents a set of recommendations for research needs and strategies. Two key points became apparent as the committee explored these issues. First, with only a few exceptions, the research that is needed to address the broad problems faced by the transmission and distribution system, and the research that would be conducted specifically to address the threat of terrorism, are largely the same, and the latter cannot be adequately undertaken without a balanced and comprehensive approach to the former. Second, measured in a number of ways, the current level of power system research investment is much smaller than it should be. This deficiency has long been recognized by those who work in and with the industry. However, agreeing on institutional arrangements that can significantly increase the levels of research investment in this field has been a persistent problem. chapter 9 notes one possible strategy, but the committee did not have a unanimous view on how best to proceed.
Details on specific research needs can be found in the discussion in chapter 9.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should develop a strategy to assess how secure inherently vulnerable infrastructure (such as the electric power delivery system) should be made from the perspective of the collective national interest.
Because the level of security that is economically rational for most infrastructure operators will be less than the level that is optimal from the perspective of the collective national interest, the DHS should develop a coherent plan to address the incremental cost of upgrading and protecting critical infrastructure to that higher level.
In the specific context of electric power delivery, the DHS should:
• Recommendation 1 Take the lead and work with the DOE and with relevant private parties to develop and stockpile a family of easily transported high-voltage recovery transformers and other key equipment. Although the expected benefits to the nation of such a program are difficult to quantify, they would certainly be many times its cost if the transformers are needed (see Chapters 3, 6, and 9).
• Recommendation 2 Work to promote the adoption of many other technologies and organizational changes, identified in this report, that could reduce the vulnerability of the power delivery system and facilitate its more rapid restoration should an attack occur (see chapters 6 and 7).
• Recommendation 3 Work with the power industry to better clarify the role of power system operators after terrorist events through the development of memoranda of understanding and planned and rehearsed response programs that include designating appropriate power-system personnel as first responders (see chapters 7 and 8).
• Recommendation 4 Offer assistance to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, to state public service commissions, and to other public and private parties in finding ways to ensure that utilities and transmission operators have appropriate incentives to accelerate the process of upgrading power delivery and eliminating its most obvious vulnerabilities (see chapter 6).
• Recommendation 5 Work with the Department of Energy and the Office of Management and Budget to substantially increase the level of federal basic technology research investment in power delivery. The committee notes that (1) much of what is needed has the nature of a “public good” that the private sector will not develop on its own; (2) current levels of research investment are woefully inadequate; and (3) most of the system’s vulnerabilities to terrorism are integrally linked to other more general problems and vulnerabilities of the system and cannot be resolved in isolation (see chapter 9).
• Recommendation 6 Take the lead in initiating planning at the state and local level to reduce the vulnerability of critical services in the event of disruption
of conventional power supplies, and offer pilot and incremental funding to implement these activities where appropriate (see chapter 8).
• Recommendation 7 Develop a national inventory of portable generation equipment that can be used to power critical loads during an extended outage. Explore public and private strategies for building and maintaining an adequate inventory of such equipment (see chapter 8).
While the seven recommendations listed above are the committee’s primary recommendations to DHS, other specific recommendations are made in chapters 6 through 9, both to DHS and to other key players. These are reproduced below sorted by responsible actor and ordered approximately in terms of how long the completion of each action will likely require.
There is one other subject on which the committee does not make a recommendation but considers that a comment is in order. chapter 5 notes that the power industry faces a more serious aging-workforce problem than that confronting many U.S. industries. There are growing shortages among both the craft and engineering workforce. This issue is also discussed briefly in the context of graduate education and research in chapter 9. Although the committee makes no specific recommendations on these issues, it is clear that, without significant attention, the problem of inadequate human resources will become increasingly serious and over time could make it more difficult to achieve the various objectives outlined in this report. The industry itself will have to take the lead in addressing the shortage of craft workers, taking steps to persuade new entrants to the job market that a career in power systems is interesting and attractive. DOE, the National Science Foundation, and Congress could all help to address the shortages in the engineering workforce through expanded programs of graduate fellowship and research support. In addition, DHS would be well advised to examine potential restrictions in visa programs that might dissuade students from entering the United States to study power engineering, or staying to work in the U.S. power industry or research universities once they have graduated. Given the imminent shortages of skilled engineers, there are security concerns associated with restrictions that are too tight as well as those that are too loose.
The list below focuses on actions DHS could take, usually in conjunction with DOE. Actions for other agencies and parties follow.
Recommendation 7.4 The Department of Homeland Security and the Edison Electric Institute should jointly develop programs and offer training for key utility personnel to respond to both conventional security threats and potential chemical or biological attacks on the electric infrastructure. The training should use risk assessments to develop increased awareness of the possible threats and should provide specific training for the use of protection equipment, detection and sensor equipment, and emergency decontamination procedures. It is essential that existing drills and restoration procedures be expanded to address potential biological or chemical agents which may be part of an attack launched to disrupt electric operations and infrastructures. Time Scale for Action: 1–3 Years
Recommendation 6.4 Local load-serving entities should work with local private and public sector groups to identify critical customers and plan a series of technical and organizational arrangements that can facilitate restricted service to critical customers during times of system stress. DHS could accelerate this process by initiating and partially funding a few local and regional demonstrations that could provide examples of best practice for other regions across the country. Time Scale for Action: 2 years
Recommendation 8.1 DHS and/or DOE should initiate and fund several model demonstration assessments each at the level of cities, counties, and states. These assessments should examine systematically the region’s vulnerability to extended power outages and develop cost-effective strategies that can be adopted to reduce or, over time, eliminate such vulnerabilities. These model assessments should involve all relevant public and private sector parties providing law enforcement, water, gas, sewerage, health care, communications, transportation, fuel supply, banking, and food supply. These assessments should include a consideration of outages of long duration (> several weeks) and large geographic extent (over several states) because the response required to deal with such outages would differ greatly from those needed to deal with shorter-duration events (hours to a few days). Time Scale for Action: 3–5 years.
Recommendation 8.2 Building on the results of these model assessments, DHS should develop, test, and disseminate guidelines and tools to assist cities, counties, states, and regions to conduct their own assessments, and develop plans to reduce their vulnerabilities to extended power outages. DHS should also develop guidance for individuals to help them understand steps they can take to better prepare for and reduce their vulnerability in the event of extended blackouts. Time Scale for Action: 3–5 years.
Recommendation 8.6 DHS should perform, or assist other federal agencies to perform, additional systematic assessment of the vulnerability of national infrastructure such as
telecommunications and air traffic control in the face of extended and widespread loss of electric power, and then develop and implement strategies to reduce or eliminate vulnerabilities. Part of this work should include an assessment of the available surge capacity for large mobile generation sources. Such an assessment should include an examination of the feasibility of utilizing alternative sources of temporary power generation to meet emergency generation requirements (as identified by state, territorial, and local governments, the private sector, and nongovernmental organizations) in the event of a large-scale power outage of long duration. Such assessment should also include an examination of equipment availability, sources of power generation (mobile truck-mounted generators, naval and commercial ships, power barges, locomotives, and so on), transportation logistics, and system interconnection. When areas of potential shortages have been identified, plans should be developed and implemented to take corrective action and develop needed resource inventories, stockpiles, and mobilization plans. Time Scale for Action: 2 Years (Assessments), 2-5 Years (Response Plans).
Recommendation 7.2 Utilities, governments at the federal, state, and local level, and law enforcement agencies should develop official memoranda of understanding (MOUs) that spell out each party’s responsibilities before, during, and immediately following deliberate destruction of utility equipment that leads to a disruption of electric service. These MOUs should provide a clear understanding of who is in charge and explain how decisions will be reached in dealing with potential tensions between crime scene investigation and timely restoration of service, as well as with unanticipated contingencies. The MOUs should also help to ensure the appropriate allocation of resources and should address concerns about potential government seizure of utility supplies and equipment during catastrophic events, which can seriously hinder a utility’s prompt restoration of electric service. Time Scale for Action: 6 Months.
Recommendation 7.5 DHS with DOE and the Electric Reliability Organization should work with utilities that have not yet done so to:
• Establish a team reporting to top management that coordinates physical, cyber, and operations security through comprehensive plans that clearly define what is expected of security personnel before, during, and after a deliberate destructive act; identifies the technologies and strategies to be used to continuously monitor critical company facilities; and establishes an Incident Command System and designates an incident commander to work with outside agencies. Time Scale for Action: 6 Months.
• Examine their internal radio communications systems to determine that battery backup systems and portable generators are in place to ensure that all communication devices will remain operational during a crisis. Because traditional communication systems may become unavailable during a destructive attack on the electric system, options such as satellite communications should be evaluated (and periodically tested) for potential use as backup communication. Time Scale for Action: 6 Months.
• Assess black-start capabilities in their systems under the assumption that major physical disruption of the transmission system can occur, develop appropriate contingency plans, and test both the plans and the equipment on a regular basis. Time Scale for Action: 6 Months.
• Assess the potential for the cascading collapse of long stretches of transmission line, and, where appropriate, include offsetting towers at various intervals, or reinforce or upgrade towers at more frequent intervals along the line. Time Scale for Action: 6 Months.
Recommendation 7.3 State and federal law or regulations should be modified to:
• Recognize utilities as essential service providers so that relevant utility employees will be trained and legally designated as first responders to deal with attacks on the power system. Time Scale for Action: 1 Year.
• Provide utilities, when needed, with temporary exemptions from laws that restrict their use of equipment and their access to roads, materials, supplies, and other critical elements for restoration of electric service to essential loads, including those that have an impact on public health and safety. Time Scale for Action: 1 Year.
• Ensure that state regulatory agencies support prudent efforts by utilities to commit and acquire the necessary resources for service restoration and that they provide reasonable assurance for recovery of these costs. Time Scale for Action: 1 Year.
Recommendation 7.6 State legislatures should change utility law to explicitly allow micro-grids with distributed generation. IEEE should revise its standards to include the appropriate use of islanded distributed generation and micro-grid resources for local islanding in emergency recovery operations. Utilities should reexamine and, if necessary, revise their distribution automation plans and capabilities in light of the possible need to selectively serve critical loads during extended restoration efforts. Public utility commis-
sions should consider the potential emergency restoration benefits of distribution automation when they review utility applications involving such investments. Time Scale for Action: 2 Years.
Recommendation 8.4 Congress, DHS, and the states should provide resources and incentives to cover incremental costs associated with private and public sector risk prevention and mitigation efforts to reduce the societal impact of an extended grid outage. Such incentives could include incremental funding for those aspects of systems that provide a public good but little private benefit, R&D support for new and emerging technology that will enhance the resiliency and restoration of the grid, and the development and implementation of building codes or ordinances that require alternate or backup sources of electric power for key facilities. Time Scale for Action: 2-5 Years.
Recommendation 6.1 The ERO should require power companies to reexamine their critical substations to identify serious vulnerabilities to terrorist attack. Where such vulnerabilities are discovered, physical and cyber protection should be applied. In addition, the design of these substations should be modified with the goal of making them more flexible to allow for efficient reconfiguration in the event of a malicious attack on the power system. The bus configurations in these substations could have a significant impact on the capacity for maintaining reliability in the event of a malicious attack on the power system. Bus layout or configuration could be a significant factor if a transformer, circuit breaker, instrument transformer, or bus work is blown up, possibly damaging nearby equipment. Time Scale for Action: 1 Year (Assessment), 3-10 Years (Upgrades).
Recommendation 6.2 The ERO and FERC should direct greater attention to vulnerability to multiple outages (e.g., N-2) planned by an intelligent adversary. In cases where major, long-term outages are possible, reinforcements should be considered as long as costs are commensurate with the reduction of vulnerability and other possible benefits. The ERO and FERC should direct greater attention at vulnerability due to multiple outages (e.g., N-2) planned by an intelligent adversary. Since necessary reinforcements will entail significant costs, just how far systems should move in this direction will depend on a careful quantitative probabilistic assessment of costs and benefits. Time Scale for Action: 1–3 Years.
Recommendation 6.3 The ERO and FERC should develop best practices and standards for improving system-wide instrumentation and the ability of near-real-time state estimation and security assessments, since otherwise operators are at a disadvantage in trying to understand and manage system disruptions as they unfold. Time Scale for Action: 1-3 Years.
Recommendation 8.3 State and local regions should undertake regional and local vulnerability assessments, building on the models provided by DHS, develop plans to collaboratively implement key strategies to reduce vulnerability, and assist private sector parties and individuals to identify steps they can take to reduce their vulnerabilities. Time Scale for Action: 1-3 Years.
Recommendation 8.5 Federal and state agencies should identify legal barriers to data access, communications, and collaborative planning that could impede appropriate regional and local assessment and contingency planning for handling long-term outages. Political leaders of the jurisdictions involved should analyze the data security and privacy protection laws of their agencies with an eye to easing obstacles to collective planning and to facilitating smooth communication in a national or more localized emergency. Time Scale for Action: 1–3 Years.
Recommendation 9.1 Complete the development and demonstration of high-voltage recovery transformers, and develop plans for the manufacture, storage, and installation of these recovery transformers (also see Recommendation 1 above).
Recommendation 9.2 Continue the development and demonstration of the advanced computational system currently funded by the Department of Homeland Security and underway at the Electric Power Research Institute. This system is intended to assist in supporting more rapid estimation of the state of the system and broader system analysis.
Recommendation 9.3 Develop for transmission control centers a visualization system that will support informed operator decision making and reduce vulnerability to human errors. R&D to this end is underway at the Electric Power Research Institute, Department of Energy, Consortium for Electric Reliability Technology Solutions, and Power System Engineering Research Center, but improved integration of these efforts is required.
Recommendation 9.4 Develop dynamic systems technology in conjunction with response demonstrations now being outlined as part of an energy efficiency initiative being developed by EPRI, the Edison Electric Institute, and DOE.
These dynamic systems would allow interactive control of consumer loads.
Recommendation 9.5 Develop multilayer control strategies that include capabilities to island and self-heal the power delivery system. This program should involve close cooperation with the electric power industry, building on work in the Wide Area Management System (WAMS), the Wide Area Control System (WACS), and the Eastern Interconnection Phasor Project (EIPP).
Recommendation 9.6 Develop improved energy storage that can be deployed as dispersed systems. The committee thinks that improved lithium-ion batteries have the greatest potential. The development of such batteries, which might become commercially viable through use in plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, should be accelerated.