- PG&E will spend $100 million over the next three years on substation security upgrades that include work on the Metcalf station where 17 transformers were taken out during an armed attack in April 2013, seriously threatening the power supply to much of Silicon Valley.
- Permitting and preliminary security improvements have begun at the Metcalf facility and will follow at other unspecified substations, according to PG&E, and may include opaque fences to obscure operations, improved lighting, better security cameras, better communication with local law enforcement, and altered landscaping, among other measures.
- The California PUC and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are working on security improvements for the electricity power grid and the California Senate is considering SB 699, which would require the PUC to establish security standards for the state’s electricity delivery system.
At 1:00 am on April 16, 2013, gunmen cut the Metcalf substation’s telephone cables, knocked out the transformers during 19 minutes of gunfire, and then disappeared by 1:50 am, leaving a facility that was not fully operational again for 27 days.
Experts do not foresee extremely violent terrorist attacks, like car bombs, on the U.S. electricity grid but it is so vulnerable that such violence wouldn’t really be necessary to compromise the power delivery system. Former FERC Chair Jon Wellinghoff recently told this reporter it would be hard to intentionally design a system as vulnerable as this nation’s grid.
Because PG&E has been unforthcoming with details about the extent and nature of the security upgrades beyond saying that some hardening at some substations has been completed, watchdog groups like The Utility Reform Network (TURN) are monitoring the process.
Regulators, grid operators, and utilities are also working on ways to harden the power delivery system against cyberattacks and natural disasters.