Power sector preparing for EMP attack among grid risks, EEI official tells Senate
The power sector is concerned about the potential for a wide range of physical and cyberattacks on the U.S. grid, but this week Aaronson told lawmakers the industry is taking a special interest in the possibility that a a man-made EMP, “either from a high-altitude nuclear blast or a so-called ‘directed energy’ weapon,” could cause a blackout.
Aaronson said the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council, a working group of 21 power company CEOs and 9 industry associations, has been working with the federal government “to enhance our understanding of system impact should such an attack occur and to explore the effectiveness of mitigation strategies.”
In prepared testimony before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Aaronson said the project will allow grid-specific research to develop and deploy technologies that will increase grid resilience and accelerate recovery.
The sector has been focused on grid security in the last year, and Aaronson noted that “security cannot be static; threats evolve and so must we.” In addition to physical threats, cyberthreats are now a major concern.
Last year, a simulated attack on the North American electric grid revealed soft spots in the grid’s defenses, despite significant progress. The North American Electric Reliability Corp.’s GridEx III exercise involved 4,400 individuals from 364 organizations, and revealed the need for greater communication and coordination between industry and government.