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FERC proposes to direct NERC to develop standards addressing geomagnetic disturbances

From the October 22, 2012 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published October 22, 2012

By Robert Varela
Editorial Director

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a notice of proposed rulemaking Oct. 18 to require development of new reliability standards addressing the impacts of a geomagnetic disturbance, such as a solar storm. The proposal would direct the North American Electric Reliability Corp. to develop mandatory reliability standards requiring owners and operators of the bulk power system to take "no regrets" steps to mitigate the impacts of geomagnetic disturbances, Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur said.

The commission’s proposal calls for a two-stage process. First, within 90 days of the effective date of a final commission rule, NERC would file standards requiring owners and operators of the bulk power system to develop and implement operational procedures to mitigate effects of geomagnetic disturbances.

In the second stage, within six months of a final rule, NERC would file standards that require grid owners and operators to conduct initial and continuing assessments of the potential impacts of geomagnetic disturbances. Based on those assessments, grid owners would be required to implement strategies to protect the bulk power system. 

Those steps could include automatic blocking of geomagnetically induced currents, specification requirements for new equipment, inventory management, or isolating certain equipment that is not cost-effective to retrofit, FERC said. The appropriate action steps "would likely vary based on how critical an asset was, where it was located, when it was scheduled to be replaced, whether it could be protected by islanding or operating protocols, or whether it needed to be retrofitted with protective equipment, LaFleur said.

Stage two would be implemented in phases, focusing first on the most critical and vulnerable assets, the commission said.


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