Physical attacks on the nation’s electrical grid increased 71% last year from 2021, according to a confidential North American Electric Reliability Corporation analysis reviewed by The Wall Street Journal (subscription).
What’s going on: The study by the NERC’s Electricity Information Sharing and Analysis Center “found that ballistic damage, intrusion and vandalism largely drove the increase. The analysis also determined that physical security incidents involving power outages have increased 20% since 2020, attributed to people frustrated by the onset of the pandemic, social tensions and economic challenges.”
- One of the most significant recent attacks was in December, when vandals disabled several North Carolina substations with gunfire, leaving about 45,000 people without power.
- The E-ISAC study of grid attacks “is more robust than publicly available data sets” and includes additional reports from grid authorities that have tracked the significant increase in reported attacks.
What to expect: The increase is likely to continue, according to the E-ISAC.
- “The number of politically or ideologically motivated attacks appears to be growing, [E-ISAC CEO and Senior Vice President Manny Cancel] said, though it is difficult to identify the reasons for each one.”
- Former Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection at the Department of Homeland Security Brian Harrell said lately there has been a notable increase in conversations among extremists about targeting critical infrastructure.
Why it’s vulnerable: The U.S. electrical grid is “a vast network of wires running from power plants and substations, many of which are located in remote areas.”
- “Power companies take numerous measures to secure their infrastructure, but some of it remains difficult to protect depending on location and a range of other factors.”
The NAM says: “Energy infrastructure and power grid security are national security issues,” said NAM Director of Energy and Resources Policy Chris Morris.
- “Investments in transmission infrastructure to reinforce the reliability, capacity and integration of clean energy—as well as the efficiency and security of the electric grid—are critical to manufacturers. Policymakers should focus on hardening and securing our electric grid to ensure dependability and protect it from external threats.”