UPDATED: FERC Directs NERC to Develop Physical Security Reliability Standards

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Friday directed the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) to develop reliability standards requiring owners and operators of the bulk power system to address risks due to physical security threats and vulnerabilities. 

The standards will require owners and operators of the bulk power system to take at least three steps to protect physical security, FERC said. They must perform a risk assessment of their system to identify facilities that, if rendered inoperable or damaged, could have a critical impact on the operation of the interconnection through instability, uncontrolled separation, or cascading failures. Then, they must evaluate potential threats and vulnerabilities to those facilities. Finally, they must develop and implement a security plan to address potential threats and vulnerabilities.

NERC now has 90 days to submit the proposed standards, including a procedure that ensures “confidential treatment of sensitive or confidential information but still allows for the appropriate oversight to ensure compliance,” FERC said.

The order stems from Congressional pressure to act after 150 rounds fired from an assault rifle knocked out 17 transformers on April 16, 2013, in an attack on Pacific Gas and Electric’s Metcalf substation in south San Jose, Calif. Repair at the substation took almost a month, and no arrests have been made in connection to the incident.

Industry group Edison Electric Institute (EEI),  welcomed the development of reliability standards, saying no “single solution” exists to make the grid completely safe and secure. It has endorsed ensuring contingencies and redundancies are in lace.  On March 13, EEI President Tom Kuhn said determining which assets are “critical” is complicated, but “employing numerous models that incorporate both government and industry perspectives helps to narrow the focus to the assets that need to be treated as priorities.”

Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)

[UPDATED March 14: Adds statement by Edison Electric Institute (EEI) President Tom Kuhn]

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