Lights Out: The Top 7 Threats To America’s Power Grid

Revelations earlier last week that hackers linked to Russia attacked and took down the Ukrainian power grid are bringing to light once again major threats to the American power grid.

American homes, industries, and businesses are deeply dependent on reliable electricity, so threats to the consistent delivery of electricity put modern life itself at risk.

“This perfect storm of policies will unavoidably raise electricity prices on Americans and seriously threaten grid reliability,” Warren continued.

From the Environmental Protection Agency crusade against to cheap domestic energy and to renegade rodents, here are the top 7 threats to the American electrical grid.

1: Environmental Protection Agency

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has repeatedly attempted to implement regulations that shut down coal and natural gas power plants. At the same time, the agency openly encourages solar and wind power, which also puts stress on the power grid.

Independent groups have suggested EPA regulations could be responsible for shutting down up to 81,000 megawatts of power generation capacity. That is the equivalent of shutting off the lights of Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, Colorado and Idaho. Such action makes the power grid more vulnerable to other disruptions.

And the agency proposes so many new regulations that it creates uncertainty among investors, which effectively prevents the construction of additional conventional power plants that could stabilize the grid.

2: Terrorism

Snipers opened fire on an electrical substation supporting the power grid in April, 2013, near Silicon Valley, California. Substations are critical links in the power grid which make it possible for electricity to move long distances. It took utility workers 27 days to make repairs and successfully reactivate the substation. No one has been arrested or charged for this crime.

Jon Wellinghoff, former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, called the incident “the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the grid that has ever occurred.”

It takes more than a year to manufacture a new transformer, and transformers aren’t interchangeable, as each one must be individually built specifically for its location. The country’s roughly 2,000 very large transformers are expensive to build, often costing millions of dollars each, and hard to replace. Each is custom made and weighs up to 500,000 pounds.

3: Cyberattacks 

A Freedom of Information Act request revealed that hackers successfully infiltrated the Department of Energy’s (DOE) computer system more than 150 times between 2010 and 2014. The DOE was targeted 1,131 times over the same period.

Infecting industrial systems, such as power grids, with malware is so simple that there are 5-minute YouTube tutorials on how to do it. By overwhelming network links with traffic in a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, Internet users or cyber-terrorists can and have removed the ability of utilities to communicate with their own electrical grids, effectively causing a blackout. The estimated price for 24 hours of consistent DDoS attack is a mere $40, making such attacks available to pretty much anybody.

4: Solar And Wind Power

5: Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP)

A series of properly deployed EMPs could effectively shut down most electrical devices in the United States for months or years. Such an attack could wipe out 90 percent of America’s population, can could be done by a rogue states with only a small nuclear-weapons program.

However, the kind of grid destroying electromagnetic pulse can also be the result of natural solar activity.

In the event of another natural EMP, the Earth would only get about 20 hours of warning.

6: Old and expensive to rebuild

7: Squirrels

Full article: Lights Out: The Top 7 Threats To America’s Power Grid (The Daily Caller)

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