Action Reflects Growing Focus on Security

Taking a major action that will impact the owners and operators of assets where damage may affect reliable operation of the grid, particularly those with critical substations, transmission lines and generating facilities, FERC on March 7th ordered NERC to develop physical security standards applicable to all owners and operators of Bulk-Power System assets. In a move that reflects growing concern over physical threats to the electric grid, FERC gives NERC only 90 days to develop and file these new standards. This action responds to intense Congressional pressure and media attention surrounding last year's attack on Pacific Gas & Electric's Metcalf substation in California.

Owners of Bulk-Power System assets will also be required to evaluate the potential threats to and vulnerabilities of the identified facilities. FERC recognizes that threats will vary from facility to facility, based on location, size, function, existing protection and attractiveness as a target. Lastly, FERC requires asset owners to develop and implement security plans to protect against attacks, based on the assessment of threats and vulnerabilities to these critical facilities. The order is thin on details, which will be left to the standards development process, the judgment of asset owners and operators and NERC's compliance oversight.

The 90 days that NERC has to develop this new reliability standard will be difficult to meet, and it raises the real possibility that the NERC Board will be put in the position of exercising preemptive authority under its rules – something it has never done before.

Read a copy of FERC’s March 7 directive.