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THE SCIENTIFIC ANSWER TO MY QUESTION ABOUT HOW TO MITIGATE CYBERATTCKS IMPACTS ON ELECTRICITY POWER SYSTEM

Dr. Amal Khashab's picture
Expert Independent Consultant ,Electric Power Systems Engineering Free lancer

Summary Full Academic Qualification by obtaining B.Sc. (1971), M.Sc. (1980) and Ph.D. (1991) of Electric Power Engineering. Active continuous education by participating in long periods of...

  • Member since 2019
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  • Mar 11, 2021
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A month ago, noting  the wide worldwide trends of decarbonization , that burden on the electric power systems. I raised the question:  What if cyber attacks on these systems have happen here and there simultaneously ?

Through the National Academies Press (www.nap.edu)  I get the report entitled " Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System (2012) ". I went through it and picked up the following lines, which I feel had answered my question. May I draw the attention that it is about 10 years old report, and I assume that action plans had been made and implemented in this regards. Meaning that my question was timely.

Reduce Vulnerability of Critical Services in the Event of Outages

Society is becoming ever more dependent on electric power. While system owners and operators should do all that they reasonably can to ensure that their systems are able to withstand anticipated assaults from natural and human sources, there are practical limits to how much these highly distributed systems can be hardened.

 There is a risk of occasional power outages, some of which will have large spatial scale and may last for many hours or even days. Since the complete elimination of all possible modes of failure is simply not feasible, an important design objective (in addition to resilience and the ability to rapidly restore the system after a problem occurs) should be the ability to sustain critical social services while an outage persists.

Thus, in addition to strengthening the grid, society should also focus on identifying critical services and developing strategies to keep them operating in the event of power outages. Strategies for managing an extended outage will require detailed planning and preparation to ensure that critical facilities can continue to operate, either from the remaining grid or from emergency power systems.

Metropolitan areas with high demand and high reliance on transmission to deliver power from distant generating stations should be of particular concern in this regard. Critical facilities (such as hospitals) often have emergency backup power generation capability, but some of these are only intended to operate for several days. An extended outage could easily exhaust the supply of fuel. Many critical service providers have no emergency power at all. Although it is not reasonable to expect federal support for all local and regional planning efforts, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and/or the DOE should each initiate and fund several model demonstration assessments at the level of cities, counties, and states.

These assessments should systematically examine a region’s vulnerability to extended power outages and develop cost-effective strategies that can be adopted to reduce or, over time, eliminate such vulnerabilities. Building on the results of these model assessments, DHS should develop, test, and disseminate guidelines and tools to assist other cities, counties, states, and regions to conduct their own assessments and develop plans to reduce their vulnerabilities to extended power outages.

To facilitate these activities, public policy and legal barriers to communication and collaborative planning will need to be addressed. At a national level, DHS should perform, or assist other federal agencies to perform, additional systematic assessment of the vulnerability of national infrastructure, such as telecommunications and air traffic control, in the face of extended and widespread loss of electric power, and then develop and implement strategies to reduce or eliminate vulnerabilities.

Part of this work should include an assessment of the available surge capacity for large mobile generation sources. Such an assessment should include an examination of the feasibility of utilizing alternative sources of temporary power generation to meet emergency generation requirements (as identified by state, territorial, and local governments, the private sector, and nongovernmental organizations) in the event of a large-scale power outage of long duration.

Government entities need to provide incentives (e.g., grants, fee-based awards, taxes, regulation ) to support incremental costs associated with public and private sector risk prevention and mitigation efforts to reduce the societal impact of an extended grid outage. Such incentives could include incremental funding for those aspects of systems that provide a public good but no private benefit and the development and implementation of building codes or ordinances that require alternative or backup sources of electric power for key facilities.

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Thank Dr. Amal for the Post!
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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Mar 11, 2021

Such incentives could include incremental funding for those aspects of systems that provide a public good but no private benefit and the development and implementation of building codes or ordinances that require alternative or backup sources of electric power for key facilities.

Always important for public players to come in and create a drive for externalities like this-- though most of the protection would actually be of private benefit to the power providers and other stakeholders, right? 

Dr. Amal Khashab's picture
Dr. Amal Khashab on Mar 11, 2021

Hi Matt,

Thanks for your comment. I think both public and private players have to go through deep partnership sharing the responsibility and associated costs. 

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