(ARLINGTON, VA) — Electric co-ops were well-represented among the 350 organizations that participated this week in a two-day exercise to evaluate and help prepare for potential threats to the electric grid. The exercise, “GridEx III,” simulated physical and cyber attacks on the nation’s power systems, destruction of communication systems, and damage from explosive devices and shootings.
A total of 18 generation & transmission and distribution co-ops took part in the drill, which was spearheaded by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC). NERC said the exercise was designed to “enhance coordination of cyber and physical security resources and practices within the industry, as well as communication with government partners and other stakeholders, including those in Canada and Mexico.”
Duane Highley, president and CEO of Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation & Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc., and vice chair of NERC’s Electric Subsector Coordinating Council, took part in the exercise and a related media teleconference. “Simulated exercises such as these allow co-ops to practice contingency and response plans, improve them, and hone our skills to be prepared for potential future events,” he said. “This also gives us the opportunity to improve our coordination capabilities with multiple industry sector partners at the local, state and federal levels.”
Over the last several years, co-ops have worked diligently with the NERC and federal agencies to strengthen reliability standards — including a significant set of cybersecurity standards — to maintain and protect the reliability of the bulk power system.
With funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, NRECA is producing a prototype security system that will rapidly identify network security threats and make it easier to keep networks safe. The Essence team includes Pacific Northwest National Lab, Honeywell and Carnegie Mellon University. The research project runs until March 2016.
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which provide service to 42 million people in 47 states.