Manager’s Message – February 2023

We ask for your Vigilance

Annie Terracciano headshotIn early December, 2 substations in North Carolina were intentionally damaged, knocking out power to 45,000 people. Closer to home, 2 substations were attacked in Washington state and 2 in Oregon in November. On Christmas day, 4 more substations were attacked in Washington state. These attacks highlight a growing concern for our electric power grids.

After these attacks, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ordered the North American Electric Reliability Corporation—which sets and enforces reliability standards for most of the electric system in the U.S.—to review existing physical security rules for the power grid.

The order requires North America Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) to provide a report within 120 days on whether any improvements are necessary to ensure the protection of the system. Any new substation requirements, either preventative or corrective, will be expensive. Not to mention, any damage that is done is costly to the utility. Both costs would ultimately be passed along to our members, which could cause rate increases in the future.

The question of what can be done to protect the electric grid is not an easy one to answer. For example, a person with a high-powered rifle could shoot from a great distance into facilities, causing major effects on equipment, all while going unseen.

How can we protect against that? The entire U.S. electric grid is vulnerable. Even with remote surveillance cameras and physical barriers, preventing criminal activity is often relegated to after-the-fact investigations.

Northern Lights has safeguards in place to protect unauthorized individuals from entering substations or interfering with our electric equipment, but nothing is foolproof.

The greatest resource we have to combat these attacks is one another. Many of our members drive by Northern Lights, Inc. (NLI) substations and facilities multiple times a day. If you see something that doesn’t look right or witness suspicious activity, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at (208) 263-5141 or call law enforcement, if needed, as soon as you safely can. We can never be too careful when it comes to keeping our infrastructure safe from vandalism.

Thank you for being vigilant!

Annie Terracciano
General Manager