After The Metcalf Attack -- A New Approach to Grid Security is Needed

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The attack on the Metcalf substation is a wake-up call for utilities, consumers, and lawmakers. The question now is: how to respond. Guarding against another sniper attack isn't enough: America needs a systematic approach to analyzing grid security to protect against all potential threats -- both man-made and natural. In this piece, ICF experts propose such an approach.

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After The Metcalf Attack -- A New Approach to Grid Security is Needed

  1. 1. News Alert After the Metcalf Attack: A New Approach is Needed to Improve Grid Security By Ken Collison, Judah Rose ICF International The news of the attack on the Metcalf substation is indeed a wake-up call. Recent reports describing a sophisticated attack on the Metcalf electric transmission substation in California last year have appropriately drawn the attention to potential threats to nation’s electric infrastructure. At Metcalf, saboteurs deliberately tried to cause a blackout by destroying the large, on-site transformers. They succeeded in damaging most of their targets. Fortunately, PG&E, the owner of the substation, was able to reroute power to keep the electric grid operational. Physical attacks such as this can be far more damaging than any storm. A coordinated physical attack on a critical grid asset (or a cyber attack aimed at causing physical damage) could wreak havoc on the system, causing a long-term blackout lasting days or months. As disruptive as storms can be, they rarely damage long lead time equipment for which there not spares. Rather, storms knock down towers and wires, which can be rehung. But utilities don’t keep large expensive equipment in the back of their repair trucks. Most of these assets are replaced very infrequently and are ordered if/when needed. Last week, four U.S. Senators asked the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to determine whether minimum standards of physical security should be developed for the bulk power system. This is a much needed review. The current approach to reviewing these events is best described as “protecting against the last event.” This static approach looks for solutions that would have stopped/slowed the last threat and then implements those solutions on a broad scale. This backward looking approach is always a step behind our enemies.
  2. 2. icfi.com Directing Resources to What’s Important Any views or opinions expressed in this paper are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of ICF International. This White Paper is provided for informational purposes only and the contents are subject to change without notice. No contractual obligations are formed directly or indirectly by this document. ICF MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS, IMPLIED, OR STATUTORY, AS TO THE INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, or otherwise), for any purpose without prior written permission. ICF and ICF INTERNATIONAL are registered trademarks of ICF International and/or its affiliates. Other names may be trademarks of their respective owners. About ICF International Since 1969, ICF International (NASDAQ:ICFI) has been serving government at all levels, major corporations, and multilateral institutions. With more than 60 offices and more than 4,500 employees worldwide, we bring deep domain expertise, problem-solving capabilities and a results-driven approach to deliver strategic value across the lifecycle of client programs. At ICF, we partner with clients to conceive and implement solutions and services that protect and improve the quality of life, providing lasting answers to society’s most challenging management, technology, and policy issues. As a company and individually, we live this mission, as evidenced by our commitment to sustainability and carbon neutrality, contribution to the global community, and dedication to employee growth. 1 ICF has developed a proprietary methodology to determine investments in infrastructure to ensure that the grid remains resilient to a wide variety of events – at the lowest cost to the consumer 1. We have successfully applied this methodology to critical infrastructure around the country, specifically to ameliorate the impacts of climate change. Protecting every asset from every possible physical and weather attack (and every scenario within these areas) is impossible and prohibitively expensive. Our approach identifies what services and assets are truly critical to the utility and its customers, so that if/when an event occurs, the impact is minimized. ICF works with critical infrastructure owners to assess redundancies and vulnerabilities, taking into account a wide threat matrix. Lastly, ICF explores all of the potential solutions – from microgrid, DG, and DER deployment to major infrastructure changes. For questions, please contact: Ken Collison 703.934.3806 Kenneth.collison@icfi.com Judah Rose 703.934.3342 Judah.rose@icfi.com “Evaluating the cost effectiveness of grid hardening investments”, Public Utilities Fortnightly, October 2013
  3. 3. icfi.com Any views or opinions expressed in this paper are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of ICF International. This White Paper is provided for informational purposes only and the contents are subject to change without notice. No contractual obligations are formed directly or indirectly by this document. ICF MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS, IMPLIED, OR STATUTORY, AS TO THE INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, or otherwise), for any purpose without prior written permission. ICF and ICF INTERNATIONAL are registered trademarks of ICF International and/or its affiliates. Other names may be trademarks of their respective owners. About ICF International Since 1969, ICF International (NASDAQ:ICFI) has been serving government at all levels, major corporations, and multilateral institutions. With more than 60 offices and more than 4,500 employees worldwide, we bring deep domain expertise, problemsolving capabilities and a resultsdriven approach to deliver strategic value across the lifecycle of client programs. At ICF, we partner with clients to conceive and implement solutions and services that protect and improve the quality of life, providing lasting answers to society’s most challenging management, technology, and policy issues. As a company and individually, we live this mission, as evidenced by our commitment to sustainability and carbon neutrality, contribution to the global community, and dedication to employee growth.

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