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Both physical and cyber security threats to the electric utility transmission and distribution (T&D) grid in all regions of the world are real. Part 1 of this blog series discussed the physical security problem and some of the measures North American utilities are taking to respond to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) CIP-14 requirements. Regardless of whether replacement high-voltage transformers, switchgear, and breakers need to be ordered from major vendors such as ABB, General Electric (GE), Siemens, or other regional companies, replacement equipment is not warehoused. Instead, it must be special ordered, manufactured, and shipped to the transmission substation where the replacement will be made.

Manufacturing lead times are typically 12 to 18 months, which is an issue the North American transmission system operators are dealing with by participating in Grid Assurance, banding together to create stockpiles of critical equipment in multiple locations across the nation. And while Grid Assurance will own and provide timely access to an inventory of emergency spare transmission equipment, the regional or national shipping and transportation issues are daunting.

Issues of Size

The sheer size of 250 kV to 750 kV high-voltage transformers makes physical transportation a logistical nightmare, regardless of whether large-scale trucks or railroad transportation is used. Companies such as ABB and Siemens have highly specialized trucks and flatbed rail cars dedicated to high-voltage transformer transportation. A huge flatbed truck designed to transport from 100 tons to 500 tons of high-voltage transformers can be seen below. These trucks need to be routed over roads that are certified for heavy loads and often have circuitous routes because of height and width clearance issues.

Transformer Shipping Using Lowboy Flatbed Truck

big truck jpeg

(Source: ABB)

However, the largest 500 kV and 750 kV extra high-voltage transformers may require specialized rail transport with similar clearance issues, bridge weight restrictions, and even access close to the transmission substation. Shipping and transportation from regional sites, vendor manufacturing centers, or overseas shipping yards may take weeks or even months, again lengthening the restoration timeframe. Moving huge transformers by rail has a similar set of constraints, based on the vicinity of rail lines to the transmission substation location.

Unfortunately, extra high-voltage and high-voltage transformers are huge pieces of equipment, and replacement and restoration time following a physical attack or transformer failure is not an overnight event. It could take months for parts to be manufactured, delivered and installed. It is clear that restoration initiatives are intimidating. Examples will be provided in Part 3 of the Physical Security blog series.

This blog was also published at http://www.navigantresearch.com/author/jmccray on February 11, 2016.

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While popular media continues to feature the ongoing cyber security threats to the electric utility transmission and distribution (T&D) grid across the globe, with recent cyber attacks in Eastern Europe, another T&D grid threat is looming on the horizon. Over the past 6 months, there have been repeated physical security attacks on utility T&D infrastructure in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. The unfortunate truth is that substations and power lines on the electric transmission system are particularly vulnerable to physical attacks, where large, high-voltage transformers are typically located in exposed outdoor conditions, and transmission towers can be seen stretching to the horizon.
Incidents such as the Metcalf Transmission Substation gunshot attack in 2014 and the recent transmission tower attacks in Eastern Europe have received significantly less attention in the media. However, they have been serious enough that the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) in 2014 released and revised Critical Infrastructure Protection-14 (CIP-014) regulations that require utilities to secure their infrastructure from physical and cyber security threats, as well as to identify and strengthen weaknesses in key substations.

Equipment Initiatives
In 2015, a group of eight U.S. transmission system operators (TSOs) announced a new initiative to speed their response to major physical attacks or other equipment failures on the transmission grid by establishing regional warehouses and inventories to long lead-time critical replacement technologies. Participants include American Electric Power, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Duke Energy, Edison International, Eversource Energy, Exelon, Great Plains Energy, and Southern Company. These companies have committed to a memorandum of understanding to develop Grid Assurance, a limited liability company that will stockpile the critical equipment necessary to shield utility customers from prolonged transmission outages in multiple locations across the nation. Grid Assurance will own and provide participants and subscribers with timely access to an inventory of emergency spare transmission equipment that could otherwise take months to acquire.

Since the release of the NERC CIP-014 regulations in 2014, utilities are significantly more aware of potential threats and vulnerabilities in the grid. Aging infrastructure, natural disasters, and coordinated attacks on key substations are all major issues. Unfortunately, on the transmission grid, a single major attack or breakdown can have long-term regional or national effects on the United States. A recent 2015 industry survey looked at initiatives that over 200 TSOs have taken since the NERC ruling. Findings included:

  • 49% of utilities have identified threats and vulnerabilities to critical assets, though 28% haven’t taken further action
  • 42% of utilities surveyed have already developed physical security plans to address potential threats
  • 40% have not taken any hardening measures to limit or prevent damage to critical assets in the last 2 years

While it is clear that TSOs are vulnerable to both physical and cyber security threats, the obstacles they face in terms of timely service restoration are daunting, to say the least. I’ll discuss these obstacles in Part 2 of this blog series on physical security.

This blog was also published at http://www.navigantresearch.com/author/jmccray on February 8, 2016.

I’m currently writing a white paper on large scale Data Center Energy Parks and Micro Grids, and am looking for examples and comments on #DemandResponse, #SmartGrid, #Renewables, and #DistributedGeneration.  I believe that there has been a lot of noise in the market about the Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple next generation data centers, but the discussion of the potential for these sites to leverage distributed renewables, utility scale battery storage, demand response, and other energy market monetization options has been secondary at best.  There are a number of excellent examples in the planning stages including the #Niobrara Data Center Energy Park, and the #Vineyards on the front range of Colorado.  I’d like to find additional great examples to highlight. Please send me a note if you have stories or examples.  If I use the content, I will make sure you get referenced and linked in the final document.

 

IntelligentNRG will focus on the convergence of Demand Response, Enterprise Energy and Carbon Management, Building Automation, Data Center Infrastructure Management, and the Smart Grid.  We believe that each of these industries is deeply inter-related and the successful market leaders in the Energy Management industry will have deep roots in one or more of these industries, offering products and services that cover most if not all of these markets.  Follow us now on Twitter at @IntelligentNRG where we will launch IntelligentNRG’s website and blog in December 2012. We hope you will actively comment and participate as this market rapidly evolves.

Of course, we are open to new ideas, collaborators, and certainly sponsors and industry partners.  Contact us at IntelligentNRG1@gmail.com.

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