- The North American electric grid is highly reliable, serving firm load 99.92% of time last year, according to an annual report from the group overseeing reliability organizations.
- Extreme weather continues to be the leading contributor to reliability issues, according to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation's (NERC) analysis, though recovery times have improved and transmission outages reduced.
- NERC warned that the number of cybersecurity vulnerabilities on the electric grid "are increasing." There were, however, no cyber or physical security incidents last year that resulted in loss of load.
Reliability of the North American grid is improving, but risks are also growing, according to NERC.
"By nearly every measure we use to evaluate reliability, it is clear that the state of North America's bulk power system remains highly reliable," John Moura, NERC's director of reliability assessment said in a statement. While year-over-year performance of the bulk power system "shows positive trends, a strong reliability posture is needed to manage the emerging challenges as a result of the changing resource mix," he said.
The report says the electric industry should "continue improving their ability to understand, model, and plan for a system with a significantly different resource mix." Specific attention should be given to issues surrounding inverter-based resources, restoration complexities with increased inverter-based resources and resource adequacy with increasing energy constraints.
Grid security, and in particular cybersecurity, "is an area where NERC and industry must continually improve defenses as threats continue to rapidly evolve," the report warns.
Cybersecurity has been a growing focus for utilities in recent years, and the issue has been back in the headlines this week on news the United States has increased efforts to insert malicious code into Russia's electric grid.
NERC's report concluded the most prominent cyber and physical security threats impacting the industry last year included: "gunfire, theft, cryptojacking, phishing, and malware."
NERC said a total of 41 gunfire incidents were reported last year to the Electricity Information Sharing and Analysis Center last year, "most commonly involving transmission lines and solar photovoltaic generation sites."
"While many physical security threats and impacts remain similar from year-to-year, the threat from activist groups continues to evolve as they become more capable," the report found.
Other findings from the report conclude there is a reliability risk in Texas this year due to a projected capacity deficit.
"Texas continues to have insufficient resources to meet the Reference Margin Level, but still successfully met demand throughout the 2018 summer season," NERC said. "Higher than average peak availability from both wind and conventional generation (along with the use of demand response resources) helped serve peak demand."
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has said it expects a tight supply-demand balance across its grid this summer as the oil and gas industry, along with new industrial load, continue to drive electricity demand higher. The grid operator for most of the state has forecast peak summer demand of 74,853 MW, with total generation resources expected to be 78,929 MW.