Coordinated Gunfire Attack on Electric Grid could Cause National Blackout

Posted on February 8th, 2014 by admin in Energy Security, Political Economy, Scenarios, Uncategorized

The electric power grid primarily consists of transmission lines, generators and transformers, all connected in a vast network. If a sufficient number of any of those components fails within a relatively short time of each other, the entire power system of the USA will blackout. Everyone knows that. But it took an actual shooting attack on just one of the components, a substation in San Jose, CA, to finally get the parties responsible for grid security to begin to take preventive actions. A coordinated shooting attack by several teams on a few carefully chosen substations could paralyze the country for months. Surely China and Iran have taken note.

The simple abstraction about grid failure was not enough for the Washington politicians, bureaucrats and utility managers. No. They waited until the information was finally published in the Wall St. Journal, almost 1 year after the event, before they activated the various government agencies to work a bit harder to secure the grid physical plant from such attacks. Yes, utility managers had been working with FBI and other government agencies responsible for grid security, but action had been very slow. The Journal article really got the attention of some politicians to drive faster preparation.

The time line below documents how a still unidentified group shot at least 100 rounds from an AK-47-like rifle into the cooling oil of a transformer, thereby causing overheating and failure. Since only one transformer was ruined, power was easily diverted and continuity of service held. But this attack was real and could well be a rehearsal for a bigger attack.

Timeline of newspaper reports on shooting attack on San Jose Substation

2/8/14~Democratic senators mull stronger regs on US power grid, following news of 2013 sniper

2/6/14~U.S. Moves to Protect Electric Grid: Congressional leaders in both parties are pushing to impose federal standards for protecting the electric grid from physical attacks in the wake of a Wall Street Journal report detailing a sophisticated attack on a California transmission substation last year.

2/5/14~Experts: Sniper attack on PG&E site points to power grid’s vulnerability to terrorism

2/4/14~Assault on California Power Station Raises Alarm on Potential for Terrorism

12/27/13~’Military-Style’ Raid on California Power Station Spooks U.S.

11/17/13~Utilities Grapple With Doomsday Scenario

4/16/13~Shots fired at PG&E substation; Silicon Valley urged to conserve electricity



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