Though most Americans have probably never even heard of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), its mission couldn't be more important.
Created as an oversight body by the electrical utility industry, NERC is charged with "ensuring the reliability of the North American bulk power system."
In practical terms that means that, besides overseeing the training and accreditation of power plant personnel, NERC is also responsible for developing safety standards, monitoring and enforcing compliance, and assessing resource adequacy.
As such, the agency has just put together a report on the recent surge in attacks on the nation's power grid. Unfortunately, however, the picture it paints is anything but pretty.
Alarming spate of recent attacks
If you haven't been following this most-disturbing trend, at the tail end of last year at least four different states suffered what appear to be coordinated terrorist attacks.
· In Moore County, North Carolina. 45,000 residents were left without power after gun-wielding assailants attacked two separate substations.
· Neighboring South Carolina suffered at least a dozen attacks on various electrical substations.
· Meanwhile, on the west coast, electrical facilities in Oregon and Washington were physically attacked on 15 separate occasions last year. All but two occurred in the final two months—culminating in a series of Christmas day assaults that left 15,000 utility customers in Puget Sound in the dark.
Grid attacks up 71%
Now, as alarming as that list might be, the evidence it provides that we're experiencing a general upsurge is still just anecdotal. It could be that these attacks haven't really increased but, instead—for whatever reason— that they're just being reported more.
Unfortunately, NERC's report puts that comforting possibility to rest. After tabulating all such attacks for the previous two years, NERC found that Grid attacks surged a whopping 71% in 2022.
No end in sight
Nor does NERC expect this new form of terrorism to subside any time soon. According to the Wall Street Journal, which obtained a copy of NERC's confidential report, the agency concludes it's likely that:
The uptick in such attacks will continue this year based on the number and nature of recent attacks, some of which appear to have been carried out by members of extremist groups aiming to destabilize the grid.
So, if you thought soaring electricity rates were the worst grid-related problem on the horizon, you may need to think again.
If we didn't already have enough on our plate, It appears that we may also be dealing with a set of coordinated attacks by terrorists intent on disrupting our power supply.