New Approach to Recovery from Catastrophic Losses of Grid Facilities
Paul Afonso is a former chairman and general counsel of the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities. He also served as chairman of the Boston Water and Sewer Commission. Afonso is currently a partner at Brown Rudnick LLP in Boston, where he co-leads the firm’s energy and government law and strategies practice. Lauren Azar is a former senior advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Energy, and a former commissioner for the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin. She is currently in private practice as a lawyer representing clients in the electric industry. Dian Grueneich formerly served as a commissioner on the California Public Utilities Commission. She is currently a senior research scholar at Stanford University, working on a range of energy issues. James Hoecker is a former chairman and commissioner for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. He currently is senior counsel and energy strategist for the energy and natural resources practice of Husch Blackwell.
Metcalf. Ukraine. Super Storm Sandy. The risks to the nation's bulk power delivery network are growing. The threat of physical and cyber attacks now compound the risks from natural disasters.
As former utility regulators and policymakers, we urge utilities, network operators, and regulators to recognize these growing risks, work together to develop robust grid resiliency and recovery plans, and implement a shared inventory model as a cost-effective way to expedite restoration of the power delivery network if severe weather strikes or parts of the grid come under attack.
Recent attacks on the electrical system, including the rifle attacks disabling transformers at Metcalf in California and the use of cyber-warfare to disrupt the power supply in the Ukraine, serve as important indicators. Bad actors now see disrupting the electricity supply as a way to cause havoc.
Physical attackers have demonstrated an increased sophistication in the planning and execution of coordinated strikes at multiple sites, and the motivation and means to plan and carry out these attacks without prior detection.
Strategic attacks on grid facilities could result in unprecedented loss of essential services, including water, sewer and communications, in addition to electricity. Utilities must take additional steps to enhance grid security, to protect against attacks, and to enhance resiliency and recovery if an attack is successful. Likewise, Super Storm Sandy disrupted major elements of the Northeast grid and future natural disasters are inevitable.