Energy in the News: U.S. Power Grid Vulnerable to Just About Everything

We’ve discussed the grid here quite a lot, and the impact that LENR/E-Cat as a power source might have on it. The following article by Jen Alic of Oilprice.com (used by permission) illustrates how moving to a distributed electricity transmission model could be very desirable.

U.S. Power Grid Vulnerable to Just About Everything

As Washington hunts ill-defined al-Qaeda groups in the Middle East and Africa, and concerns itself with Iran’s eventual nuclear potential, it has a much more pressing problem at home: Its energy grid is vulnerable to anyone with basic weapons and know-how.

Forget about cyber warfare and highly organized terrorist attacks, a lack of basic physical security on the US power grid means that anyone with a gun—like disgruntled Michigan Militia types, for instance–could do serious damage.

For the past two months, the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has been tasked with creating a security strategy for the electric grid and hydrocarbon facilities through its newly created Office of Energy Infrastructure Security. So far, it’s not good news.

“There are ways that a very few number of actors with very rudimentary equipment could take down large portions of our grid,” warns FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff. This, he says, “is an equal if not greater issue” than cyber security.

FERC’s gloom-and-doom risk assessment comes on the heels of the recent declassification of a 2007 report by the National Academy of Sciences.

The National Academy of Sciences on 14 November warned that a terrorist attack on the US power grid could wreak more damage than Hurricane Sandy. It could cause massive blackouts for weeks or months at a time. But this would only be the beginning, the Academy warns, spelling out an “end of days” scenario in which blackouts lead to widespread fear, panic and instability.

What they are hinting at is revolution—and it wouldn’t take much.

So what is being done to mitigate risk? According to FERC, utility companies aren’t doing enough. Unfortunately, FERC does not have the power to order utilities to act in the name of protecting the country’s energy infrastructure. Security is expensive, and more than 90% of the country’s grid is privately owned and regulated by state governments. Private utilities are not likely to feel responsible for footing the bill for security, and states may not be able to afford it.

One key problem is theoretically a simple one to resolve: a lack of spare parts. According to the National Academy of Sciences, the grid is particularly vulnerable because it is spread out across hundreds of miles with key equipment not sufficiently guarded or antiquated and unable to prevent outages from cascading.

We are talking about some 170,000 miles of voltage transmission line miles fed by 2,100 high-voltage transformers delivering power to 125 million households.

“We could easily be without power across a multistate region for many weeks or months, because we don’t have many spare transformers,” according to the Academy.

High-voltage transformers are vulnerable both from within and from outside the substations in which they are housed. Complicating matters, these transformers are huge and difficult to remove. They are also difficult to replace, as they are custom built primarily outside the US. So what is the solution? Perhaps, says the Academy, to design smaller portable transformers that could be used temporarily in an emergency situation.

Why was the Academy’s 2007 report only just declassified? Well, its authors were worried that it would be tantamount to providing terrorists with a detailed recipe for attacking and destabilizing America, or perhaps for starting a revolution.

The military at least is preparing to protect its own power supplies. Recently, the US Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $7 million contract for research that demonstrates the integration of electric vehicles, generators and solar arrays to supply emergency power for Fort Carson, Colorado. This is the SPIDERS (Smart Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security), and the Army hopes it will be the answer to more efficient and secure energy.

Back in the civilian world, however, things are moving rather slowly, and the focus remains on the sexier idea of an energy-crippling cyberattack.

Last week, Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) urged House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) to pass a bill—the GRID Act–which would secure the grid against cyberattacks.

“As the widespread and, in some cases, still ongoing power outages from Superstorm Sandy have shown us, our electric grid is too fragile and its disruption is too devastating for us to fail to act,” Markey wrote. “Given this urgency, it is critical that the House act immediately in a bipartisan manner to ensure our electrical infrastructure is secure.”

This bill was passed by the House, but has failed to gain any traction in the Senate.

FERC, of course, is all for the bill, which would give it the authority to issue orders and regulations to boost the security of the electric grid’s computer systems from a cyberattack.

But it’s only a small piece of the security puzzle, and FERC remains concerned that authorities are overlooking the myriad simpler threats to the electricity grid. These don’t make for the easy headlines, especially since they are not necessarily foreign in nature.

Source: http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/US-Power-Grid-Vulnerable-to-Just-About-Everything.html

By. Jen Alic of Oilprice.com

  • Anthony Richards

    Off topic as I’ve no idea how to start a new thread, but did anyone else spot this from e-Cat News ? Hope he’s wrong !

    My interest in the eCat and its progeny lay in its promise for the future. Now that I doubt Rossi’s claims to the point of near certainty, the subject does not deserve the work involved in keeping this blog alive.

    • Karl

      Whats your point?

    • Peter_Roe

      So someone on ECN has made another dismissive negative comment. That’s what they do there and I’m afraid I have no idea why you think its worthy of repeating here.

      Well actually I do have an idea, but I won’t bother to spell it out.

      • Anthony

        Well, humble apologies but I naively assumed that the fact that eCat News had ceased because the editor no longer believed in AR might possibly be of interest.

        He began ECN as an unbiased platform because he thought there had to be something in the eCat simply because it attracted such violent scepticism and opposition, but has finally conceded that there was no ulterior purpose to said scepticism – just human nature.

        From the comments, it is clear that some on this forum are similarly biased but in the opposite direction ! So no, I don’t have any ulterior motive for the initial post.
        As I said, let’s hope he’s wrong.

        • georgehants

          Anthony, you said —
          “but has finally conceded that there was no ulterior purpose to said scepticism –”

          You are giving mistaken credence to this editors ability to judge.
          He is just like everybody else and if he does not believe that abuse, irrational denial, and convoluted negative stance as you are showing is incorrect, then he is in error.
          There are other logical faults with your view, please reply on current page if you wish to continue.

          • Anthony

            Thanks, George.

            Well, time will tell whether the editor’s correct or not.

            I wasn’t stating an opinion, just repeating what had already been said, but nevertheless would rather take the view that there’s a fair chance he knows what he’s talking about even if he is wrong.

            But I seriously doubt that my eCat ordered last year will ever arrive !

  • Roger Bird

    And the article said nothing about natural phenomena. Coronal Mass Ejection of the Carrington Event level is a “when”, not an “if”.

  • Filip48

    As a Belgian I proudly present to you the ‘ Micro Smart Grid’ on Antartica.

    • Nono

      As a Belgian, I can say that this winter we might have a blackout because of 2 fission reactors switched off after some cracks have been found on them. We (the Belgians) need to import electricity from our neighbors the French, Dutch and German. The simplest problem on the grid will show us how the dark sky is.

      I’m not sure the Micro grid installed in our Station in Antartica can be implemented as fast in the old grid.

  • georgehants

    This is the kind of logical hogwash that main-line science encourages.
    The guardian says —-
    “Peer review is far from perfect, but the media presenting material that has not been through review as accepted science is misleading.”
    —–
    I say with LOGIC, What is the difference between “Misleading” material that has not had peer review and the masses of distorted, untrue, corrupt, and completely wrong material that passes or the Truth that is censored by peer review.
    Cold Fusion may be a good example of my point.
    The whole system needs changing to something that is open and Honest, not just defend the current failed system.
    I am led to believe scientists are meant to be clever, then solve this problem and stop going round in bloody circles.
    —-
    The Guardian home
    What peer review means for science
    Peer review is far from perfect, but the media presenting material that has not been through review as accepted science is misleading.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/lost-worlds/2012/dec/01/dinosaurs-fossils

  • Roth

    People, including senators, with “normality bias” are generally regarded as “psychologically normal”. But are they? asks somebody who has survived a war.
    Regarding people responsible for national grid security “normality bias” equals “psychopathic behaviour”.

  • Peter_Roe

    George – The chronology of the various developments in the ‘hot cat’ story is a little uncertain, but I think that the promises to release a third party report on the performance of a prototype may have been made before the co-development contract was signed. If that’s the case, then the terrain may have altered subsequently, perhaps to the point that the US partner is now vetoing publication of the report.

    Rossi rarely seems to say outright when something changes, especially when this means that something he has said is no longer going to happen. Instead he tries to lower expectations incrementally, and then just lets an idea (such as home e-cats) quietly wither on the vine. I have a growing suspicion that this may be the case with the 3rd party tests, and if they are published at all, it will be alongside a press release concerning the co-developed pilot installation that appears to be in the works.

    Edit: This was supposed to be a reply to georgehants’ post at 10:26. I must’ve clicked the wrong button I think.

    • georgehants

      Peter, yes saw your view on other comments.
      Of course you are right but in this case if there is a delay then we have no choice but to clear our minds and just give time to him and all other possible breakthrough claims.
      In which case I would suggest to Admin that to keep us entertained we broaden to discuss in earnest other scientific current failures, i.e. UFO’s etc.
      How about that?

      • admin

        Hi George,

        Best to discuss those kinds of topics in the forums space.

        • georgehants

          Admin, as you know I do, was just suggesting.

          Could you moderate my latest, thank you.

      • georgehants

        Peter, have asked Rossi—-
        georgehants
        Your comment is awaiting moderation.
        December 1st, 2012 at 11:56 AM
        Mr. Rossi, just to clarify is the third party report still to be published soon or have the problems led to a delay that will stop that for now.

        • georgehants

          Mr Rossi seems a bit peed off with questions today.
          ——–
          Andrea Rossi
          December 1st, 2012 at 3:13 PM
          Dear Georgehants:
          The third party is indipendent and they will publish what they want, where they want and when they want.
          Warm Regards,
          A.R.

          • Peter_Roe

            There is an edge, isn’t there! I don’t think that Rossi’s reply indicates anything imminent. If I pushed the ‘reading between the lines’ I might see some kind of rift between AR and the ‘indipendent’ 3rd party, but it could just be irritation with some other constraint on his plans.

  • http://www.cilectric.com.au Manuel Cilia

    I have been involved in design and building stand alone energy system using solar, wind and biomass for the last 30 years. We currently have all the technology to decentralise the grid now, the only thing stopping us is what is considered a reasonable cost. Everyone must remember that LENR alone cannot supply us power to our homes without all the associated equipment like inverters, batteries and control gear. The way I see LENR fitting into the big picture will be to supply base load power while other energy supplies such as solar and batteries ironing out the peaks in our electricity usage. What LENR will enable us to do is use smaller battery sets to help run our homes. Currently people are total depend on public infrastuture and it is only during a blackout that we realise how important that public service is. People need to learn how to live off the grid and that it does not mean a lower quality of life. I have been living off the grid for 10 years (no electricity and no gas)and I have raise 4 children, run my business and have not gone without.

    People must stop waiting for some else to solve all their problems we have all the solutions now, LENR will only help provide more options

    • clovis

      Hi,Manule.
      It great to have you precipitate in our on going conversation about all kinds of energy, we here are following the e cat, but new and innovative ideas are welcome, stay tuned my friend, great thing are about to happen that will shake everything to it’s core, we call it the Rossi revolution,
      –you sound just the sort to fit right in,— smile

    • SteveW

      “The way I see LENR fitting into the big picture will be to supply base load power while other energy supplies such as solar and batteries ironing out the peaks in our electricity usage.”

      If LENR turns out to be robust enough to supply base load power then solar is done. It makes as much sense as saying, “we still need the horse and buggy during rush hour traffic”.

  • GreenWin

    It is at least good that FERC is considering the potential dangers of our grid-based energy system. As we have seen over the past 40+ years, blackouts in the United States happen with regularity at huge financial cost. Imagine grocers and food distributors who after three days on emergency backup run out of fuel for refrigeration units. Or the local deli and ice cream shop that has zero backup during a week long blackout. These large and small proprietors are out of business.

    The clearest, most effective precaution to all manner of vulnerability, is distributed energy. It has been opposed by centralized utilities for obvious reasons. However, it is now a prime reason to re-think energy production in North America and industrialized nations.

    An ordered, logical conversion of light and heavy industry to local and “district” CHP electric, heat and cooling systems is the place to start. As demonstrated by the TECO system visited earlier this year by DOE head Steven Chu:

    “Dr. Chu fully understands the benefits of CHP – that it doubles energy efficiency and reduces emissions – and that a district energy system is what enables you to put the waste heat to good use.”

    http://www.thegreeneconomy.com/secretary-chu-highlights-large-scale-chp/

    In August, President Obama issued an Executive Order to accelerate investment in industrial energy efficiency and CHP:

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/08/30/executive-order-accelerating-investment-industrial-energy-efficiency

    LENR implemented at district and industrial scale, need not be the sole burden of industry. The Executive Order provides for federal funds to assist the conversion process. Further, large utilities and energy producers (e.g. GE, PG&E, GE Capital) can work with low cost energy financiers to provide industry with conversion funds.

    Considering the deep mid-term cost savings of LENR, combined with CHP efficiencies, industries adopting distributed or district energy production will see ~50% cost reductions. Key industries such as food, communications, medical and emergency services would significantly lower the security exposure. FERC would likely approve.

    One reasonable conversion path would be to implement natural gas-fired LENR CHP systems. The gas company remains a fuel supplier (albeit at lower consumption rates) and distributed LENR is introduced. Maybe Google or Amazon or Tesla Motors will be an early adopter of these state of the art systems. ??

  • Renzo
    • http://www.electric-sailing.fi Pekka Janhunen

      I’m a space scientist, and our group started to study these geomagnetically induced current effects some 30 years ago. I have developed the European MHD model (GUMICS) which is used to study these effects and we have some EU projects about these matteres. It looks to me that the danger of these geomagnetic storms is exaggerated in publicity nowadays, because based on what we know, the probability of severe consequences from magnetic storms is small. We cannot completely rule out the possibility of a catastrophe, mainly because having only about 40 years of relevant measurements of the sun’s activity we in principle do not know the frequency of really big events. To address this data deficiency, a new emerging trend in research is to look at other solar type stars to get more statistics of their magnetic activity, another is to try to model sun’s magnetic effects from first principles.

      Nevertheless, even one “Fukushima” is bad enough, so why wouldn’t one just store enough emergency genset diesel fuel near nuclear plants that one could run the coolant pumps long enough to remove the remnant nuclear heat after emergency shutdown. Then the nuclear accident would be avoided if the grid goes down or is disconnected from the plant for any reason for an extended time, be it war, uprising, earthquake, storm, flood, geomagnetic storm, asteroid hit or whatever. Or if storing near the plant is risky, one could have plans to deliver it from redundant sources and redundant ways. Hopefully such plans exist. In Japan they seemingly did not.

      • georgehants

        Pekka, regarding the sun’s output measurements it would seem prudent based on your stated lack of measurements over the millions of years that would be needed to make a fair assessment, one should put a safety limit that is many, many, times the sun’s known output.
        If this cannot be achieved with safety features such as you suggest then the nuclear people have no right to build such unpredictable bombs.
        Why is the scientific community not refusing to cooperate in the construction of such devices without a safety regime that is adequate to cover the unknowns and unexpected.

        • Andrew Macleod

          Once again it comes down to the almighty dollar. Trying to put a fail safes on something to guard against the unknowns is costly. There are company’s that monitor solar weather, I guess 4 min warning is better than nothing, if there is a plan in place.

      • Peter_Roe

        There are about 100 nuclear power stations in the US, many of them relatively old. Due to a lack of any waste disposal arrangements, many of these are storing many years worth of ‘spent’ fuel rods in ponds, which have be continuously cooled.

        While most of them have sufficient emergency backup to shut down, any grid outages lasting for more than a few days would see all emergency provisions exhausted, with nothing to stop the reactors overheating even in shutdown mode, and the fuel ponds boiling dry then catching fire as the hot beryllium alloy casings are exposed to air.

        This (fuel rod fires) is the main threat that still hangs over Fukushima Daitchi 4, as there is a huge pile of fuel rods stored in its high-level fuel pond, and the building appears to be slowly collapsing. TEPCO currently seems to be trying to hide developing cracks by photoshopping and cropping images of this reactor. http://enenews.com/again-tepco-edits-image-fukushima-unit-4-trying-hide-bottom-reactor-building-photo

        • AB

          Public distrust of nuclear power has a lot to do with the fact that authorities will always lie and downplay risks and most people realize that official information cannot be trusted.

          • Peter_Roe

            Indeed. ‘It’s easy to spot when a politician is lying. It’s when he opens his mouth.’

            Perhaps it doesn’t matter that much when the lies were about money, corruption and other scandals, but the stakes are a bit higher when the lies are about what levels of radiation a population is being exposed to, or what is being sprayed into the sky above our heads.

            • clovis

              Hi, Pete.
              It is said,that the cruelest lies are often told in silence.

              • Peter_Roe

                A very astute observation.

      • Omega Z

        Pekka

        They had back up Generators at Fukushima.
        In the Basement. First thing that went.

        Katrina, New Orleans.
        Huge Flood Pumps. To prevent flooding from a breach or to minimize it.
        Located below Flood level. Pumps flooded out in short order.
        Hospitals. Back up Generators located in basement because placement on Rooftops was Considered to bothersome to haul fuel to the Roof of the Hospitals.

        Should a Major solar flare hit the World, 3/4’s of the U.S. Could become a no-mans zone. The Worlds food basket would be gone for Centuries.

        Large portion of U.S. populace attitude is to wait for help from 1st Responders. In this situation there will be none. Most people don’t realize that food & water would become scarce after about 3 days. Chaos would follow within a week. Societal breakdown. Everyone for themselves.

        This would be the 1 time when it would be Good to live in a 3rd world country. For the most part their lives would carry on near normal.

        U.S has a bad tendency to be Reactive instead of proactive. We also place backup in poor locations.

        • http://www.electric-sailing.fi Pekka Janhunen

          1) A solar storm, whatever its magnitude, doesn’t cause flooding.
          2) In natural disasters, third world countries have suffered orders of magnitude greater death tolls than developed ones, in equivalent disasters.
          It’s good to think of different disaster scenarios, though. Certainly there are people in government whose mandate is to do it. It’s not so good if people cannot or won’t trust them.

  • Pachu

    Have received at my University a printed copy of Siemens Pictures of the Future for Fall 2012, you can get the online one at:
    http://www.siemens.com/pof

    There is a deep analysis about “The Energy Puzzle”, from now to 2050, its good to read, just warn you: no mention of LENR.

    • Omega Z

      Pachu

      There wouldn’t be any mention of LENR. Even if Siemens should be Rossi’s partner in this endeavor, It’s a New Technology & until Proven without doubt to them, They wouldn’t want to tip their hand. There’s also to many unknowns. How Dependable. How Efficient. How Interchangeable/Integrable. What will final costs be. Things don’t always work as planned or hoped. Jumping the Gun could be embarrassing. CEO’s heads may roll.

      Until these Questions are answered, Any long term plans will work with the known & Proven. Even if they are unofficially behind the scenes looking at Integrating the LENR into their plans.

      If you’ve looked at Siemens CHIP units, It’s easy to see how an E-cat could be Easily interchanged with their heat producing Units with little alteration to it’s design.

      NASA/Boeing on the other-hand have many disclosed possibilities in their future outlook. But Even they leave many caveats in their literature. Can it be scaled to purpose. Weight verse power output. Maximum output. All the unknowns. If weight/power don’t scale then Ground/LENR based hydrogen production for aircraft.

      Difference here is NASA is known for studying future concepts with If’s involved. It’s their Job & few will criticize them for it. It’s expected. Siemens not so much. Stockholders expect them to be more grounded with Proven Technology. Not Maybes.

  • georgehants

    Just interesting that another one of those scientific “myths” is shown to be a myth, followed religiously and taught to children as a god given law without saying, as far as we know light travels in a straight line.
    —-
    Physics World
    Light bends itself round corners.
    Five years ago physicists showed that certain kinds of laser beam can follow curved trajectories in free space. Such counterintuitive behaviour could have a number of applications, from manipulating nanoparticles to destroying hard-to-reach tumours. But before this bizarre effect could be put to good use, researchers were faced with the challenge of how to bend the light through large enough angles to be useful. Now, two independent teams have solved this problem – and claim that the bending of sound and other kinds of waves could be next.
    http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/2012/nov/30/light-bends-itself-round-corners

    • georgehants

      Admin could you moderate please and two comments of mine back at —-Rossi on ‘Very Important’ Partner —-
      Thank you.

  • AstralProjectee

    I have known this for a long time. We are very vulnerable to terrorist attacks. I am very surprised we have not had another big terrorist attack since 9/11. If terrorists had cold fusion would they be empowered to carry out their attacks? Big question, that many don’t ask.

    • Peter_Roe

      Sorry – I can’t see the logic in this. What could ‘terrorists’ do with a large steam boiler that they can’t do now?

      • AstralProjectee

        Very simple, cold fusion empowers, and once everyone is given cold fusion. That is a hybrid version of Rossi’s e-cat or similar. Then terrorists become more independent and empowered just like everyone else.

        • Omega Z

          Astral

          Tho there are always exceptions, It is my assumption that terrorist movements will drastically shrink with the advent of cheap Energy.

          Most of these movements obtain a large majority of their members & support from the poor & down trodden. These are people who have nothing left to lose. They can be bought with very little. They can be easily convinced that certain people are to blame for their misfortune. This effects everybody regardless where their from or live.

          Cheap Energy can raise their standard of living. They can Support & Feed their families. Have a home. Have a Life. Things they would Risk losing. A powerful incentive to resist fanatical movements. In Fact, they would help fight it.

          • Ryan

            Agreed, should this technology spread quickly it would make it more difficult for terrorist organizations to recruit and incur more push back from their nations and peoples to curtail or cease their activities. Granted, there will likely remain a core fanatical element that won’t change no matter what, convinced for whatever delusional reasons that they are just or impowered by whatever nonsense they believe in but that is true of most groups like that. A side benefit is that LENR, if fully realized would likely help curtail population growth as well since prosperous people typically have fewer children as they neither need or want to have dozens of them.

      • Alan DeAngelis

        Just for the record, the members of the Michigan militia were acquitted.

        http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/03/27/charges-dismissed-in-michigan-militia-case/

      • timycelyn

        Ah… they might be very green terrorists. ;-)

  • georgehants

    As with the above report everything concerning Energy in the World is waiting for either a breakthrough in Cold Fusion technology to allow a high enough gain to be practical or one of the other possible reported technologies to be shown as proven.
    The major event that would bypass all of this possibly years long waiting is that Mr. Rossi shows the E-Cat technology works as claimed.
    Everything else is interesting and important but seemingly miles behind Rossi.
    The time is approaching quickly where the, proof of concept, regarding the reported situation by Mr. Rossi must mature.
    A delay here, a problem there, is just par for the course in development and nobody can blame the people involved, but a promise of third party conformation has been clearly made.
    That conformation can not reasonably be delayed as it simply involves a few people exercising one finger on their keyboard to compose the report and send it to wherever, but the JONP is a good starter as it certainly outranks all main-line journals for free uncensored reporting.
    The quality of the report and its authors will determine the reaction that follows until Mr. Rossi, if genuine, allows reports from the buyers of the E-Cats that he has always said would be the only indisputable proof.
    We wait.

    • clovis

      George
      isn’t that just the way science is, oh, and failure, disappointment’s ,
      What ever is it that makes anyone even try,–smile– it must be the lure of the unknown, the euricka moment, but that does not come, unless you are out there, in the right spot, at just the right time and then maybe just maybe whamoo,, –smile

      • georgehants

        clovis, o yes and we never know, we may be on the spot when Mr. Rossi proves his case.
        Anybody who is not then exhilarated must be already dead or working for hot fusion.