Some of the U.S.’ largest utility companies are combining forces to cobble together large stockpiles of power transformers and other electrical equipment in the event of a major terrorist attack or apocalyptic scenario.
Utility companies such as American Electric Power Co. and Exelon Corp. are helping fund the creation of a Delaware company called Grid Assurance LLC, which will be used to store massive power transformers and circuit breakers in unidentified places throughout the country.
Congress, for its part, has been tinkering with the idea of creating a strategic transformer reserve to house electrical equipment. Lawmakers introduced a bill in 2015 that would direct the Department of Energy to create a reserve program for excess electrical equipment.
The legislation is still making its way through Congress.
“This much-needed legislation would direct the Department of Energy to produce a plan to create a strategic transformer reserve program, an idea supported by NEMA and its members as a way to bolster the United States’ capacity to respond quickly to the loss of one or multiple large power transformers,” Kevin J. Cosgriff, the president and CEO of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, told reporters in May 2015.
The creation of Grid Assurance is meant to address concerns utility companies and Congress have with attacks on the nation’s electrical grid.
The venture also comes on the heels of a Department of Energy (DOE) report published Thursday showing that the U.S. electrical grid is vulnerable to attacks because of lax security precautions.
The DOE report detailed how the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) “had not always established adequate physical security measures and practices for its critical assets, addressed physical security measures recommended in prior risk assessments, and conducted performance testing to ensure that security measures for physical assets were performing as designed.”
WAPA is responsible for running 17,000 miles of transmission lines providing power to 680 companies all across the Western United States.
Another report from the National Research Council in 2012 shows that electrical transformers could become targets for attacks in the future — though the report did note that progress has been made on security.
“High voltage transformers are of particular concern because they are vulnerable to attack, both from within and from outside the substation where they are located,” the report noted.
A slew of unidentified gunmen unleashed a hail of bullets on 17 transformers near substations located in San Jose, California in a 2013 attack. The transformers were not destroyed, but the attacks did act as a warning signal to utility companies nevertheless.
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