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Partnership, information-sharing are key to electric grid's security, Kelly tells Senate committee


From the April 11, 2014 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published April 11, 2014

By Jeannine Anderson
Editor

Keeping the lights on for customers "is of paramount importance to electric utilities," APPA President and CEO Sue Kelly told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee yesterday. Because electricity is produced and consumed instantaneously and follows the path of least resistance, "ensuring reliability and grid security is a collective affair," she said.

The hearing, "Keeping the Lights On — Are We Doing Enough to Ensure the Reliability and Security of the U.S. Electric Grid?" was convened by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., chair of the Senate energy committee, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, the committee's ranking minority member.

The electricity industry’s top priority is to protect critical power infrastructure from cyber and physical threats by partnering with all levels of government and sharing critical information, noted Kelly. 

Utilities have addressed threats to the electric grid for years, Kelly said. 
Image credit: U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources


"Today, I represent investor-owned, cooperatively owned and publicly owned utilities, independent generators, and Canadian utilities," she said. "For very legitimate reasons, we often have different views on the policy issues facing our industry. On the issue of grid security, however, we have come together." 

All sectors of the industry supported the mandatory electric reliability regime Congress created in Section 215 of the Federal Power Act. The industry also has worked with the Department of Energy and the Department of Homeland Security to develop the Electricity Sub-sector Coordinating Council. The ESCC, which includes representatives from electricity trade associations, utilities and regional transmission organizations, "plays an essential role in coordination and information-sharing," Kelly said.

Utilities have addressed threats to the electric grid for years. Though cyber attacks, meteorological events and potential terrorist acts have driven much of the public discussion on grid security lately, "the threats to physical infrastructure have been around for many years," she noted.
 
Recent media reports have highlighted attacks on physical infrastructure, including the April 2013 incident at Pacific Gas and Electric’s Metcalf substation in California. While electric utilities take the Metcalf incident seriously, the notion that recent media stories suddenly spurred the industry to take action on grid security is inaccurate, Kelly said. Before the media reports appeared, government and the electricity industry had initiated a series of briefings across the country to help utilities and local law enforcement learn more about the Metcalf attack and its potential implications. 

On March 7, 2014, — partly in response to the Metcalf incident — the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission directed the North American Electric Reliability Corporation to develop mandatory reliability standards governing the physical security of critical assets, and to do so within 90 days. 

"APPA and our members, along with many other industry stakeholders, are participating in the NERC process to develop this important standard," Kelly said.

Kelly’s full testimony is available on the APPA website.

 

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