Deadly Auroras? The Carrington Event Threat: Solar Superstorms and the Risk of Devastating Blackouts and Electric Grid Damage from Massive Geomagnetic Disturbances (GMD) by Progressive Management - Read Online
Deadly Auroras? The Carrington Event Threat
0% of Deadly Auroras? The Carrington Event Threat completed

About

Interests

Summary

This comprehensive and up-to-date ebook presents the complex story behind the threat posed by massive solar storms to the electric grid. There is growing concern that a repeat of the colossal "Carrington-event" storm of 1859, or even the lesser 1921 solar storm, could wreak unprecedented havoc on America's electric power system, potentially causing prolonged blackouts. In a worst-case scenario, some researchers believe that a giant solar storm could catastrophically damage hundreds of huge high-voltage transformers critical to the grid; since the replacement of these components could take years, unimaginable consequences are possible. Here we have compiled dozens of official documents and reports that explain the threat and explore possible measures to limit the risk. Contents: Part 1: Overview of the Threat * Part 2: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Material * Part 3: U.S. Congressional Hearings * Part 4: Department of Homeland Security Evaluation * Part 5: Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Material * Part 6: Secure Grid '11: Electrical Grid Crisis Tabletop Exercise * Part 7: Large Power Transformer Study Report * Part 8: Space Weather * Part 9: The Sun, the Earth, and Near-Earth Space: A Guide.

The nation's power grid is vulnerable to the effects of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), a sudden burst of electromagnetic radiation resulting from a natural or man-made event. EMP events occur with little or no warning and can have catastrophic effects, including causing outages to major portions of the U.S. power grid possibly lasting for months or longer. Naturally occurring EMPs are produced as part of the normal cyclical activity of the sun while man-made EMPs, including Intentional Electromagnetic Interference (IEMI) devices and High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP), are produced by devices designed specifically to disrupt or destroy electronic equipment or by the detonation of a nuclear device high above the earth's atmosphere. EMP threats have the potential to cause wide scale long-term losses with economic costs to the United States that vary with the magnitude of the event. The cost of damage from the most extreme solar event has been estimated at $1 to $2 trillion with a recovery time of four to ten years, while the average yearly cost of installing equipment to mitigate an EMP event is estimated at less than 20 cents per year for the average residential customer. Naturally occurring EMP events resulting from magnetic storms that flare on the surface of the sun are inevitable. Although we do not know when the next significant solar event will occur, we do know that the geomagnetic storms they produce have occurred at varying intensities throughout history. We are currently entering an interval of increased solar activity and are likely to encounter an increasing number of geomagnetic events on earth. In 1989, an unexpected geomagnetic storm triggered an event on the Hydro-Quebec power system that resulted in its complete collapse within 92 seconds, leaving six million customers without power. This same storm triggered hundreds of incidents across the United States including destroying a major transformer at an east coast nuclear generating station. Major geomagnetic storms, such as those that occurred in 1859 and 1921, are rare and occur approximately once every one hundred years. Storms of this type are global events that can last for days and will likely have an effect on electrical networks worldwide. Should a storm of this magnitude strike today, it could interrupt power to as many as 130 million people in the United States alone, requiring several years to recover. Mitigation technologies to protect the power grid against such a costly EMP event can be developed, and in some cases do exist. - Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)

Published: Progressive Management on
ISBN: 9781301829668
List price: $9.99
Availability for Deadly Auroras? The Carrington Event Threat: Solar Supers...
With a 30 day free trial you can read online for free
  1. This book can be read on up to 6 mobile devices.

Reviews

Book Preview

Deadly Auroras? The Carrington Event Threat - Progressive Management

You've reached the end of this preview. Sign up to read more!
Page 1 of 1

Threat

The nation's power grid is vulnerable to the effects of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), a sudden burst of electromagnetic radiation resulting from a natural or man-made event. EMP events occur with little or no warning and can have catastrophic effects, including causing outages to major portions of the U.S. power grid possibly lasting for months or longer. Naturally occurring EMPs are produced as part of the normal cyclical activity of the sun while man-made EMPs, including Intentional Electromagnetic Interference (IEMI) devices and High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP), are produced by devices designed specifically to disrupt or destroy electronic equipment or by the detonation of a nuclear device high above the earth's atmosphere. EMP threats have the potential to cause wide scale long-term losses with economic costs to the United States that vary with the magnitude of the event. The cost of damage from the most extreme solar event has been estimated at $1 to $2 trillion with a recovery time of four to ten years, while the average yearly cost of installing equipment to mitigate an EMP event is estimated at less than 20 cents per year for the average residential customer.

Naturally occurring EMP events resulting from magnetic storms that flare on the surface of the sun are inevitable. Although we do not know when the next significant solar event will occur, we do know that the geomagnetic storms they produce have occurred at varying intensities throughout history. We are currently entering an interval of increased solar activity and are likely to encounter an increasing number of geomagnetic events on earth.

In 1989, an unexpected geomagnetic storm triggered an event on the Hydro-Quebec power system that resulted in its complete collapse within 92 seconds, leaving six million customers without power. This same storm triggered hundreds of incidents across the United States including destroying a major transformer at an east coast nuclear generating station. Major geomagnetic storms, such as those that occurred in 1859 and 1921, are rare and occur approximately once every one hundred years. Storms of this type are global events that can last for days and will likely have an effect on electrical networks worldwide. Should a storm of this magnitude strike today, it could interrupt power to as many as 130 million people in the United States alone, requiring several years to recover. Mitigation technologies to protect the power grid against such a costly EMP event can be developed, and in some cases do exist.

In order to avoid major disruptions to the grid, it will be necessary to: (1) develop, test and deploy mitigation technologies to automatically protect the power grid from costly damage; (2) train bulk power system operators to improve their situational awareness of EMP threats; and (3) improve reporting and monitoring of geomagnetic storm and power grid events.

EMP threats raise grave concerns about the ability of the modern U.S. power grid to successfully recover from the effects of a major geomagnetic event. Since the last occurrence of a major geomagnetic storm in 1921, the Nation's high voltage (HV) and extra high voltage (EHV) systems have increased in size over tenfold. Longer transmission lines that span greater surface potentials act as conductors for the geomagnetically induced current (GIC) that can devastate the electrical grid. GIC poses the risk of catastrophic damage to EHV transformers and can lead to long-term outages of large portions of the grid.

Unlike the more familiar terrestrial weather threats that the electric power grid is built to withstand, severe geomagnetic storms have a much larger geographic footprint, posing the risk of considerable equipment damage and long-term outages to major portions of the North American grid.

By simulating the effects of a 1 in 100 year geomagnetic storm centered over southern Canada, the computer models estimated the sections of the power grid expected to collapse during a major EMP event. This simulation predicts that over 300 EHV transformers would be at-risk for failure or permanent damage from the event. With a loss of this many transformers, the power system would not remain intact, leading to probable power system collapse in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Pacific Northwest, affecting a population in excess of 130 million. Further simulation demonstrates that a storm centered over the northern region of the United States could result in extending the blackout through Southern California, Florida and parts of Texas.

In addition to causing the immediate damage and failure of transformers, there is also evidence that GIC may be responsible for the onset of long-term damage to transformers and other key power grid assets. Damaged transformers require repair or replacement with new units. Currently most large transformers are manufactured in foreign countries and replacements would likely involve long production lead times in excess of a year. The long-term power outages associated with such a delay would pose unacceptable societal burdens.

The two other types of electromagnetic threats to the power grid are high altitude electromagnetic pulse (HEMP) and intentional electromagnetic interference (IEMI). While man-made, such threats can prove similarly devastating to the electrical infrastructure and produce similar harm to the power grid.

HEMP is produced by a nuclear weapon detonated above the atmosphere. No blast, shock or radiation is felt at the Earth's surface; however, electromagnetic fields do reach the surface. IEMI is a term that is applied to the non-explosive, non-nuclear intentional generation of intense electromagnetic fields that are used to introduce signals into electronic equipment for the specific purpose of disrupting, confusing or damaging these electronics. IEMI devices are malicious in nature and are used for terrorist or criminal purposes. Many types of IEMI are commercially available and can be as compact as a briefcase in size. In many ways, the IEMI threat is similar to that of the early-time threat of high-altitude EMP and can be addressed in a similar fashion.

From the Executive Summary, Electromagnetic Pulse: Effects on the U.S. Power Grid, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Solar Superstorm: The 1859 Carrington Event

Scientists are beginning to understand a historic solar storm in 1859. One day, they say, it could happen again. Newly uncovered scientific data of recorded history's most massive space storm is helping a NASA scientist investigate its intensity and the probability that what occurred on Earth and in the heavens almost a century-and-a-half ago could happen again.

An ultraviolet-wavelength picture of the sun taken by the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) on Oct. 23, 2003.

In scientific circles where solar flares, magnetic storms and other unique solar events are discussed, the occurrences of September 1-2, 1859, are the star stuff of legend. Even 144 years ago, many of Earth's inhabitants realized something momentous had just occurred. Within hours, telegraph wires in both the United States and Europe spontaneously shorted out, causing numerous fires, while the Northern Lights, solar-induced phenomena more closely associated with regions near Earth's North Pole, were documented as far south as Rome, Havana and Hawaii, with similar effects at the South Pole.

What happened in 1859 was a combination of several events that occurred on the Sun at the same time. If they took place separately they would be somewhat notable events. But together they caused the most potent disruption of Earth's ionosphere in recorded history. What they generated was the perfect space storm, says Bruce Tsurutani, a plasma physicist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

To begin to understand the perfect space storm you must first begin to understand the gargantuan numbers with which plasma physicists like Tsurutani work every day. At over 1.4 million kilometers (869,919 miles) wide, the Sun contains 99.86 percent of the mass of the entire solar system: well over a million Earths could fit inside its bulk. The total energy radiated by the Sun averages 383 billion trillion kilowatts, the equivalent of the energy generated by 100 billion tons of TNT exploding each and every second.

But the energy released by the Sun is not always constant. Close inspection of the Sun's surface reveals a turbulent tangle of magnetic fields and boiling arc-shaped clouds of hot plasma dappled by dark, roving sunspots.

Once in a while--exactly when scientists still cannot predict--an event occurs on the surface of the Sun that releases a tremendous amount of energy in the form of a solar flare or a coronal mass ejection, an explosive burst of very hot, electrified gases with a mass that can surpass that of Mount Everest.

What transpired during the dog days of summer 1859, across the 150 million-kilometer (about 93 million-mile) chasm of interplanetary space that separates the Sun and Earth, was this: on August 28, solar observers noted the development of numerous sunspots on the Sun's surface. Sunspots are localized regions of extremely intense magnetic fields. These magnetic fields intertwine, and the resulting magnetic energy can generate a sudden, violent release of energy called a solar flare. From August 28 to September 2 several solar flares were observed. Then, on September 1, the Sun released a mammoth solar flare. For almost an entire minute the amount of sunlight the Sun produced at the region of the flare actually doubled.

With the flare came this explosive release of a massive cloud of magnetically charged plasma called a coronal mass ejection, said Tsurutani. Not all coronal mass ejections head toward Earth. Those that do usually take three to four days to get here. This one took all of 17 hours and 40 minutes, he noted.

Below: SOHO coronagraphs captured this movie of a coronal mass ejection (CME) heading toward Earth on Oct. 22nd. NOAA forecasters expect the CME to cause a geomagnetic storm when it reaches Earth on or about Oct. 24th, but not as severe as the superstorm of 1859.

Not only was this coronal mass ejection an extremely fast mover, the magnetic fields contained within it were extremely intense and in direct opposition with Earth's magnetic fields. That meant the coronal mass ejection of September 1, 1859, overwhelmed Earth's own magnetic field, allowing charged particles to penetrate into Earth's upper atmosphere. The endgame to such a stellar event is one heck of a light show and more -- including potential disruptions of electrical grids and communications systems.

Back in 1859 the invention of the telegraph was only 15 years old and society's electrical framework was truly in its infancy. A 1994 solar storm caused major malfunctions to two communications satellites, disrupting newspaper, network television and nationwide radio service throughout Canada. Other storms have affected systems ranging from cell phone service and TV signals to GPS systems and electrical power grids. In March 1989, a solar storm much less intense than the perfect space storm of 1859 caused the Hydro-Quebec (Canada) power grid to go down for over nine hours, and the resulting damages and loss in revenue were estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The question I get asked most often is, 'Could a perfect space storm happen again, and when?' added Tsurutani. I tell people it could, and it could very well be even more intense than what transpired in 1859. As for when, we simply do not know, he said.

To research the perfect space storm of 1859, Tsurutani and co-writers Walter Gonzalez, of the Brazilian National Space Institute, and Gurbax Lakhina and Sobhana Alex, of the India Institute of Geomagnetism, used previously reported ground, solar and auroral observations, and recently re-discovered ground-based magnetic- field data from Colaba Observatory in India. The findings were published in a recent issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

At 11:18 AM on the cloudless morning of Thursday, September 1, 1859, 33-year-old Richard Carrington—widely acknowledged to be one of England's foremost solar astronomers—was in his well-appointed private observatory. Just as usual on every sunny day, his telescope was projecting an 11-inch-wide image of the sun on a screen, and Carrington skillfully drew the sunspots he saw.

On that morning, he was capturing the likeness of an enormous group of sunspots. Suddenly, before his eyes, two brilliant beads of blinding white light appeared over the sunspots, intensified rapidly, and became kidney-shaped. Realizing that he was witnessing something unprecedented and being somewhat flurried by the surprise, Carrington later wrote, I hastily ran to call someone to witness the exhibition with me. On returning within 60 seconds, I was mortified to find that it was already much changed and enfeebled. He and his witness watched the white spots contract to mere pinpoints and disappear.

It was 11:23 AM. Only five minutes had passed.

Just before dawn the next day, skies all over planet Earth erupted in red, green, and purple auroras so brilliant that newspapers could be read as easily as in daylight. Indeed, stunning auroras pulsated even at near tropical latitudes over Cuba, the Bahamas, Jamaica, El Salvador, and Hawaii.

Even more disconcerting, telegraph systems worldwide went haywire. Spark discharges shocked telegraph operators and set the telegraph paper on fire. Even when telegraphers disconnected the batteries powering the lines, aurora-induced electric currents in the wires still allowed messages to be transmitted.

What Carrington saw was a white-light solar flare—a magnetic explosion on the sun, explains David Hathaway, solar physics team lead at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Now we know that solar flares happen frequently, especially during solar sunspot maximum. Most betray their existence by releasing X-rays (recorded by X-ray telescopes in space) and radio noise (recorded by radio telescopes in space and on Earth). In Carrington's day, however, there were no X-ray satellites or radio telescopes. No one knew flares existed until that September morning when one super-flare produced enough light to rival the brightness of the sun itself.

It's rare that one can actually see the brightening of the solar surface, says Hathaway. It takes a lot of energy to heat up the surface of the sun!

A modern solar flare recorded Dec. 5, 2006, by the X-ray Imager onboard NOAA's GOES-13 satellite. The flare was so intense, it actually damaged the instrument that took the picture. Researchers believe Carrington's flare was much more energetic than this one.

The explosion produced not only a surge of visible light but also a mammoth cloud of charged particles and detached magnetic loops—a CME—and hurled that cloud directly toward Earth. The next morning when the CME arrived, it crashed into Earth's magnetic field, causing the global bubble of magnetism that surrounds our planet to shake and quiver. Researchers call this a geomagnetic storm. Rapidly moving fields induced enormous electric currents that surged through telegraph lines and disrupted communications.

More than 35 years ago, I began drawing the attention of the space physics community to the 1859 flare and its impact on telecommunications, says Louis J. Lanzerotti, retired Distinguished Member of Technical Staff at Bell Laboratories and current editor of the journal Space Weather. He became aware of the effects of solar geomagnetic storms on terrestrial communications when a huge solar flare on August 4, 1972, knocked out long-distance telephone communication across Illinois. That event, in fact, caused AT&T to redesign its power system for transatlantic cables. A similar flare on March 13, 1989, provoked geomagnetic storms that disrupted electric power transmission from the Hydro Québec generating station in Canada, blacking out most of the province and plunging 6 million people into darkness for 9 hours; aurora-induced power surges even melted power transformers in New Jersey. In December 2005, X-rays from another solar storm disrupted satellite-to-ground communications and Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation signals for about 10 minutes. That may not sound like much, but as Lanzerotti noted, I would not have wanted to be on a commercial airplane being guided in for a landing by GPS or on a ship being docked by GPS during that 10 minutes.

Power transformers damaged by the March 13, 1989, geomagnetic storm.

Another Carrington-class flare would dwarf these events. Fortunately, says Hathaway, they appear to be rare:

In the 160-year record of geomagnetic storms, the Carrington event is the biggest. It's possible to delve back even farther in time by examining arctic ice. Energetic particles leave a record in nitrates in ice cores, he explains. Here again the Carrington event sticks out as the biggest in 500 years and nearly twice as big as the runner-up.

These statistics suggest that Carrington flares are once in a half-millennium events. The statistics are far from solid, however, and Hathaway cautions that we don't understand flares well enough to rule out a repeat in our lifetime.

And what then?

Lanzerotti points out that as electronic technologies have become more sophisticated and more embedded into everyday life, they have also become more vulnerable to solar activity. On Earth, power lines and long-distance telephone cables might be affected by auroral currents, as happened in 1989. Radar, cell phone communications, and GPS receivers could be disrupted by solar radio noise. Experts who have studied the question say there is little to be done to protect satellites from a Carrington-class flare. In fact, a recent paper estimates potential damage to the 900-plus satellites currently in orbit could cost between $30 billion and $70 billion. The best solution, they say: have a pipeline of comsats ready for launch.

Humans in space would be in peril, too. Spacewalking astronauts might have only minutes after the first flash of light to find shelter from energetic solar particles following close on the heels of those initial photons. Their spacecraft would probably have adequate shielding; the key would be getting inside in time.

No wonder NASA and other space agencies around the world have made the study and prediction of flares a priority. Research won't prevent another Carrington flare, but it may make the flurry of surprise a thing of the past.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Getting Ready for the Next Big Solar Storm

Modern power grids are vulnerable to solar storms. Credit: NASA/Martin Stojanovski

In Sept. 1859, on the eve of a below-average solar cycle, the sun unleashed one of the most powerful storms in centuries. The underlying flare was so unusual, researchers still aren't sure how to categorize it. The blast peppered Earth with the most energetic protons in half-a-millennium, induced electrical currents that set telegraph offices on fire, and sparked Northern Lights over Cuba and Hawaii.

This week, officials have gathered at the National Press Club in Washington DC to ask themselves a simple question: What if it happens again?

A similar storm today might knock us for a loop, says Lika Guhathakurta, a solar physicist at NASA headquarters. Modern society depends on high-tech systems such as smart power grids, GPS, and satellite communications--all of which are vulnerable to solar storms.

She and more than a hundred others are attending the fifth annual Space Weather Enterprise Forum—SWEF for short. The purpose of SWEF is to raise awareness of space weather and its effects on society especially among policy makers and emergency responders. Attendees come from the US Congress, FEMA, power companies, the United Nations, NASA, NOAA and more.

As 2011 unfolds, the sun is once again on the eve of a below-average solar cycle—at least that’s what forecasters are saying. The Carrington event of 1859 (named after astronomer Richard Carrington, who witnessed the instigating flare) reminds us that strong storms can occur even when the underlying cycle is nominally weak.

In 1859 the worst-case scenario was a day or two without telegraph messages and a lot of puzzled sky watchers on tropical islands.

In 2011 the situation would be more serious. An avalanche of blackouts carried across continents by long-distance power lines could last for weeks to months as engineers struggle to repair damaged transformers. Planes and ships couldn’t trust GPS units for navigation. Banking and financial networks might go offline, disrupting commerce in a way unique to the Information Age. According to a 2008 report from the National Academy of Sciences, a century-class solar storm could have the economic impact of 20 hurricane Katrinas.

As policy makers meet to learn about this menace, NASA researchers a few miles away are actually doing something about it:

We can now track the progress of solar storms in 3 dimensions as the storms bear down on Earth, says Michael Hesse, chief of the GSFC Space Weather Lab and a speaker at the forum. This sets the stage for actionable space weather alerts that could preserve power grids and other high-tech assets during extreme periods of solar activity.

They do it using data from a fleet of NASA spacecraft surrounding the sun. Analysts at the lab feed the information into a bank of supercomputers for processing. Within hours of a major eruption, the computers spit out a 3D movie showing where the storm will go, which planets and spacecraft it will hit, and predicting when the impacts will occur. This kind of interplanetary forecast is unprecedented in the short history of space weather forecasting.

This is a really exciting time to work as a space weather forecaster, says Antti Pulkkinen, a researcher at the Space Weather Lab. The emergence of serious physics-based space weather models is putting us in a position to predict if something major will happen.

Some of the computer models are so sophisticated, they can even predict electrical currents flowing in the soil of Earth when a solar storm strikes. These currents are what do the most damage to power transformers. An experimental project named Solar Shield led by Pulkkinen aims to pinpoint transformers in greatest danger of failure during any particular storm.

Disconnecting a specific transformer for a few hours could forestall weeks of regional blackouts, says Pulkkinen.

Another SWEF speaker, John Allen of NASA's Space Operations Mission Directorate, pointed out that while people from all walks of life can be affected by space weather, no one is out on the front lines quite like astronauts.

Astronauts are routinely exposed to four times as much radiation as industrial radiation workers on Earth, he says. It's a serious occupational hazard.

NASA keeps careful track of each astronaut's accumulated dosage throughout their careers. Every launch, every space walk, every solar flare is carefully accounted for. If an astronaut gets too close to the limits ... he or she might not be allowed out of the space station! Accurate space weather alerts can help keep these exposures under control by, e.g., postponing spacewalks when flares are likely.

Speaking at the forum, Allen called for a new kind of forecast: We could use All Clear alerts. In addition to knowing when it's dangerous to go outside, we'd also like to know when it's safe. This is another frontier for forecasters--not only telling us when a sunspot will erupt, but also when it won't.

The educational mission of SWEF is key to storm preparedness. As Lika Guhathakurta and colleague Dan Baker of the University of Colorado asked in a June 17, 2011 New York Times op-ed: What good are space weather alerts if people don’t understand them and won’t react to them? By spreading the word, SWEF will help.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Part 2: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Material

FERC Orders Development of Reliability Standards for Geomagnetic Disturbances

News Release: May 16, 2013

Docket No. RM12-22-000

Item No. E-5

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) today issued a final rule requiring development of reliability standards that address the impact of geomagnetic disturbances (GMD) to ensure continued reliable operation of the nation’s Bulk-Power System.

GMDs caused by solar events distort, with varying intensities, the earth’s magnetic field. These events can have potentially severe, widespread effects on reliable grid operation, including blackouts and damage to critical or vulnerable equipment. Existing mandatory reliability standards do not adequately address GMD vulnerabilities on the Bulk-Power System.

Today’s rule directs the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), the FERC-approved Electric Reliability Organization, to develop and submit new GMD standards in a two-stage process. The Commission did not require NERC to include any specific requirements in the GMD reliability standards; it identified issues to be considered and addressed in the standards development process.

In the first stage, NERC must file, within six months of the rule taking effect, one or more reliability standards requiring owners and operators of the Bulk-Power System to develop and implement operational procedures to mitigate GMD effects. The rule encourages implementation of the standards within six months of Commission approval. The final rule also directs NERC to conduct a geomagnetic disturbance vulnerability assessment and identify facilities most at-risk from a severe disturbance.

In the second stage, NERC has 18 months to file standards identifying benchmark GMD events, which define the severity of GMD events a responsible entity must assess for potential impacts on the Bulk-Power System. Those standards must require owners and operators to conduct initial and continuing assessments of the potential effects of specified benchmark GMD events on equipment and the Bulk-Power System as a whole. If the assessments identify potential effects from such events, the reliability standards should require a responsible entity to develop and implement plans to protect against instability, uncontrolled separation or cascading failures of the system.

The final rule takes effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Commissioner Cheryl A. LaFleur Statement

May 16, 2013

Docket No. RM12-22-000

Item No. E-5

Reliability Standards for Geomagnetic Disturbances

As I have previously observed, geomagnetic disturbances (GMD) caused by solar storms exemplify high impact low frequency" threats to the reliability of the Bulk-Power System. While there is debate over whether a severe GMD event is more likely to cause the system to break apart due to excessive reactive power consumption or to collapse because of damage to high-voltage transformers and other vital equipment, there is no debate that the wide-spread blackouts that could result under either scenario are unacceptable. I fully support today’s Final Rule, and thank the team for acting on this so promptly. It is very timely, not just because we are in a period of intense solar activity for the next two weeks—but in a more meaningful way, because we do not know when these threats may impact us, so it makes sense to get started now on preparing for them.

"Today’s Final Rule largely adopts the proposals set out in our October 2012 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. However, it reflects four significant changes or clarifications to reflect comments we received:

The Final Rule extends the filing time for both the first and second stage standards. NERC will have 6 months from the effective date of today’s order to file the first-stage operational planning standard and 18 months to file the second stage standards. The Final Rule also makes clear that the Commission expects NERC to propose a multi-phased and prioritized implementation plan for the second stage standards.

The Final Rule clarifies that the second stage standards must identify benchmark GMD events that specify what severity GMD events a responsible entity will be expected to protect against. The Final Rule gives industry and NERC the flexibility to identify technically justified benchmarks through the standards development process.

The Final Rule makes clear that the Commission is not prescribing a specific technology or methodology for the second-stage standards, but rather directing industry and NERC to apply their technical expertise to develop and implement a plan to protect against instability, uncontrolled separation, or cascading failures of the Bulk-Power System caused by a benchmark GMD event. In the Final Rule, the Commission explicitly recognizes that the nature of this threat may require a range of approaches and responses depending on geographic location, equipment condition, system configuration, and other factors.

Finally, the Commission clarifies that it does not intend to impose strict liability for outages caused by GMD events of unforeseen severity. In the Final Rule, the Commission recognizes that our understanding of GMD is still evolving, and that reliability standards cannot be expected to protect against all GMD-induced outages. However, the Commission calls on industry and NERC to develop robust and technically justified standards that reflect our best knowledge at this time, and whose goal is to protect against instability, uncontrolled separation, or cascading failures of the Bulk-Power System caused by a benchmark GMD.

"I appreciate all the work that NERC, the industry, and other stakeholders have done and are still doing to better understand GMD events. While the work of monitoring and studying GMD must continue, today’s order makes clear that we must also begin to develop and implement reliability standards that address and mitigate the threats posed by GMD events. At a time when we are investing heavily in our transmission grid, we can and should also invest to increase its resilience for future generations. I believe today’s order represents an important step in that direction.

Thank you.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Commissioner John R. Norris Statement

May 16, 2013

Docket No. RM12-22-000

Item No. E-5

Bookmark and Share

Reliability Standards for Geomagnetic Disturbances

"I support today’s Final Rule because I believe addressing the potential impacts of geomagnetic disturbances (GMD) through reliability standards is an appropriate and prudent step at this time. As the record developed through the course of last year’s Technical Conference and subsequent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) demonstrates, geomagnetic disturbances can lead to voltage instability and subsequent voltage collapse, potentially threatening the reliable operation of the bulk power system. Additionally, nearly everyone agrees that the existing reliability standards do not address this particular matter. For these reasons, I believe it is appropriate for the Commission, pursuant to section 215(d)(5) of the Federal Power Act, to direct NERC to fill this gap in the reliability standards.

"I want to emphasize the flexible and balanced approach we are taking. The Final Rule directs NERC to fill the gap we have identified in the standards, and provides high level direction and guidance regarding the issues we believe the standards development process should consider. However, we make clear that we are not prejudging NERC’s process or the content of the standards ultimately produced, and we give NERC and industry stakeholders room to apply their technical expertise in addressing GMD. In addition, we clarify that we are not requiring the use of any particular technologies, such as automatic blocking, to protect against the impacts of GMD. We also make clear that our intent is not to outlaw GMD-related blackouts; rather, our overall objective is standards that require entities to reasonably plan to protect the system from the impacts of GMD events.

Finally, and of great importance to me, the Commission recognizes in the Final Rule that costs and benefits must be a consideration when weighing measures to protect against the impact of GMDs. We state our expectation that NERC and industry will consider costs and benefits of proposed measures in the standards development process. My hope is that NERC, industry and the Commission will develop a record of those cost considerations as we go forward, so that other policymakers and the public will understand the choices and tradeoffs we will inevitably make in crafting standards to address GMD risks.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Commissioner John R. Norris Statement

October 18, 2012

Docket Nos. RM12-22-000 and RM12-4-000

Item Nos. E-2 and E-3

Proposed Enhancements to Reliability of Bulk Power System

"These two reliability orders address two distinctly different challenges, and represent two different approaches to maintaining reliability. E-3, concerning Reliability Standard FAC-003-2 on Transmission Vegetation Management (FAC-003), to me is about executing the fundamentals necessary to keep the lights on. We know that, without continuous care of transmission rights of way, vegetation growth will, without question, grow into power lines and impact reliability. This second version of FAC-003 recognizes the inevitability of outages if vegetation management is not in a continual state of maintenance, and also recognizes that this maintenance must be performed on all transmission facilities that have an impact on reliability. The inclusion of Interconnection Operating Limit (IROL) elements and Major Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) Transfer Path elements is a good step in recognizing that the applicability of FAC-003 should include sub-200 kV facilities that are critical to grid reliability.

The threat of geomagnetic disturbances (GMD) addressed in the proposed rule in E-2 is a different but equally important reliability challenge. A poster child for a Low Frequency–High Impact threat, GMD involves a judgment call that requires us to assess the likelihood of occurrence, how severe the impact could be, and the options to guard against that impact. Like a cyber attack, the potential size and duration of an outage that could result from a GMD demands that we take the precautions necessary to prevent, limit, or contain the potential impact. While I do not believe there is a reasonable option that will guarantee that GMDs will never impact the grid, there are shorter and longer-term steps that we can take to guard against their potential impacts. Recognizing that taking these steps will come with costs, we have to find a sweet spot", if you will, where the cost of implementing reasonable reliability measures to guard against GMD impacts is appropriately balanced against the potential costs of a GMD event.

"Given the magnitude of the potential damage, I believe we are taking the right approach in this order by proposing to require that in stage two, there must be more extensive standards developed than just those that address operational and enhanced training procedures (the subject of stage one). The evidence before us today suggests that some or all vulnerable elements of the system will need further hardening to withstand a GMD. I think we appropriately give deference to NERC to make a needs assessment and design the additional measures necessary (through the development of the stage two standards) to meet the reliability needs identified in those assessments. But, as the proposed rule indicates, timing is of the essence. With the prediction of high solar flare activity on the very near time horizon, NERC will need to develop standards and industry to implement them much more rapidly than has previously been required. Again, this is another judgment call where we must decide what is reasonable and what is necessary. I ask NERC and the industry to accept this challenge and work as expeditiously as possible to meet it.

In summary I think we have approached vegetation management like you would approach changing the oil in your car. You know that, if you do not do it, at some point your car will breakdown. And, preparing for GMDs is like buying insurance for your car. You hope that you will never need it - and in fact, you might not - but, it would be irresponsible to not determine what level of coverage you do need and to make the necessary investment to protect yourself and others from the risk and potential severity of an occurrence.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Commissioner Cheryl A. LaFleur Statement

October 18, 2012

Docket Nos. RM12-22-000 and RM12-4-000

Item Nos. E-2 and E-3

Proposed Enhancements to Reliability of Bulk Power System

"Protecting the reliability of the nation’s bulk electric system requires both day-to-day blocking and tackling to make sure that the lights stay on, and preparing for emerging issues including high-impact low-frequency events. Today, we are voting out Notices of Proposed Rulemaking that speak to both these components of reliability.

Vegetation Management Standard

"No issue is more central to reliability than timely and effective tree trimming to keep the transmission system operational. Indeed, a tree contact was a key contributing cause of the 2003 blackout that gave rise to this Commission’s jurisdiction over reliability.

"I believe the vegetation management standard (FAC-003-2) that we propose to approve today represents an important step forward in addressing this basic reliability issue. In particular, I note that the new standard includes a requirement to maintain a defined Minimum Vegetation Clearing Distance (MVCD) for all transmission lines above 200 kv and lines below 200 KV that are part of an Interconnection Reliability Operating Limit or WECC Transfer Path, and, for the first time, a requirement to annually inspect 100 percent of the lines subject to the standard. These requirements are both clear and concrete.

"The standard we propose to approve today is one of the first results-based standards put forward by NERC. As I understand the concept of a results-based standard, it includes a clearly defined result – avoidance of outages caused by vegetation within a MVCD—on the basis of which to judge compliance with the standard. Because the standard is judged by results, it proposes to give more flexibility to transmission owners about how to meet those results, as long as they are met. This is an important concept, and the successful implementation of this standard may be a model for further results-based standards.

"I also appreciate the commitment by NERC and the industry, working with EPRI, to fund further empirical research on the proposed MVCD, since that is such a critical element of the proposed standard. I recognize that years of hard work went into this proposed standard, and appreciate the efforts of the NERC standards team as well as everyone here at FERC that worked on the standard.

Geomagnetic Disturbances

The second Notice of Proposed Rulemaking relates to a very different issue, preventing or mitigating damage to the bulk electric system caused by geomagnetic disturbances resulting from solar storms. Solar storms are an acute example of High Impact Low Frequency events, which I believe are among the most difficult, but also the most necessary, to address through standards. Just as our society has over the centuries developed standards to protect elements of our infrastructure from high impact low frequency events like earthquakes and fires, I believe we must begin to address the challenge of making our electric grid resilient to geomagnetic disturbances. This is an issue in which I have taken a strong personal interest. As I have observed, the threat of geomagnetic disturbances damaging the power grid sounds like science fiction, but is in fact based on scientific fact. However, while the fact that geomagnetic disturbances can cause substantial harm to the electric grid is undisputed, the way in which that harm would occur is not without controversy. The technical community has debated whether geomagnetic disturbances caused by solar events would cause the bulk electric system to break apart due to excessive reactive power consumption, cause damage to high-voltage transformers and other key elements of the system due to inductive currents, or some combination of the two. Any of these results is unacceptable, and is exactly the sort of cascading disturbance to the bulk power system that section 215 of the Federal Power Act requires us to address. I believe that, while continuing to explore the technical issues, we can and should adopt No Regrets" actions to prevent and mitigate grid damage from geomagnetic disturbances. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking we are voting on today includes two such No Regrets actions, both of which are consistent with NERC’s assessment report on GmD issued earlier this year.

"First, we would require NERC to develop and propose a standard that requires transmission owners to take operational steps, to prepare for geomagnetic disturbances. This is one of the first actions proposed in NERC’s assessment and action plan. Because we are approaching a periodic solar maximum in 2013, increasing the threat of damaging solar storms, we are proposing to seek fast action on an operational standard.

"Second, we would require NERC to develop and propose a standard that would require transmission owners to undertake an assessment of the most vulnerable elements of the bulk electric system, and propose steps to prevent or mitigate damage to those elements from geomagnetic disturbances. As indicated in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, those steps could include installation of automatic blocking in certain vulnerable and critical transformers, requirement of withstand capability in transformers, inventory management strategies, operational plans to address critical elements of the system, and/or other steps that the industry and NERC may propose. Importantly, the proposed rule gives industry and NERC considerable flexibility of how to address this issue, but not the flexibility to ignore it.

"As with any other program to address pieces of the electric grid—and I have lived through quite a few—the appropriate action steps would likely vary based on how critical an asset was, where it was located, when it was scheduled to be replaced, whether it could be protected by islanding or operating protocols, or whether it needed to be retrofitted with protective equipment. Our collective understanding of these options would likely grow once we started the process.

"I know that the challenge of preparing our bulk electric system for geomagnetic disturbances is very complicated, and complicated challenges require complicated solutions. In the past, the electric grid has undergone many large-scale efforts to refurbish or replace electrical equipment to improve reliability, safety or environmental performance. Because of the size, diversity and continuous operation of the electric grid, these efforts are inevitably more complicated and take longer than expected. To me, that argues for getting started sooner rather than later.

"Finally, I believe it is appropriate to tackle this challenge now because the US is facing considerable investment in our transmission grid, driven by a change in power supply and replacement of aging infrastructure. We have a big opportunity to make sure the next generation of transmission equipment is built to withstand geomagnetic disturbances.

I hope we will receive a broad range of comments on both Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. I would like to thank the FERC teams that worked on these proposed rules, and on the technical conference on GMD last spring on this issue. Thank you.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Summary and Highlights: FERC GMD Staff Technical Conference

Staff Technical Conference on Geomagnetic Disturbances to the Bulk power System

United States of America - Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

April 30, 2012

At the end of April, 2012, an important FERC Staff Technical Conference was held, taking testimony and holding discussions on the current status of GMD risks, and both existing and recommended mitigation steps and standards. The Conference achieved significant advances in building consensus on parallel efforts on standard setting, data gathering and mitigation actions.

Given the timeliness of the conference, EIS Council was asked to summarize and highlight some of the key comments and consensus that arose in the conference testimony and dialogue. This report provides a summary and highlights from the conference.

Background

On April 30, 2012, A FERC Staff Technical Conference was held, to discuss issues related to the reliability of the Bulk-Power System as affected by geomagnetic disturbances, and to explore the risks and impacts from geomagnetically induced currents to transformers and other equipment on the Bulk-Power System, as well as options for addressing or mitigating the risks and impacts.1 Brief highlights of some of the key dialogue at the conference are provided below. 2

1 http://www.ferc.gov/eventcalendar/Files/20120420162925-AD12-13-000a.pdf

2 This document was created without the aid of an official transcript, through use of the conference audio. As such, all quotations, though intended to be as accurate as possible and to capture the intent of the speaker, should be recognized to be paraphrases.

Highlights of testimony and panel discussion

Panel 1: Assessment of Geomagnetic Disturbance (GMD) Risks

[Panelists were asked to address the North American Electric Reliability Corporation's (NERC) GMD Interim Report-other related assessments, e.g., Oak Ridge Study; and the differences between these reports and assessments.] 3

Highlights from introductory remarks from Joseph McClelland, Conference moderator, Director of FERC Office of Electric Reliability

Recognizing that the decisions rendered on this issue may have far reaching effects on the industry, the government, and the citizens of the United States, this conference and the supplemental comments we receive are intended to generate a sufficient record in order that we can properly inform the Commission.

Summary comments from FERC Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur

Putting the timeliness of calls for e-threat grid protection in a cost context, Commissioner LaFleur pointed out that EEI has estimated that $300B will be spent on transmission [upgrades/new equipment] between 2010 and 2030. I have read the testimony and I strongly believe there are a set of no-regrets actions that we can and must begin now, since they are called for by all the competing studies, she said.

Scott Pugh - Interagency Programs Office, Science & Technology Directorate, U. S. Department of Homeland Security

Calling for an increase in hardware testing, Scott Pugh said: A system for destructive testing of randomly selected transformers could tell us whether the U.S. transformer fleet needs to be protected. Without this information, we are essentially flying blind.

Addressing the viability of procedural / operational GMD grid protection, he continued, [20 minutes] is not much time to issue a warning and take preemptive [operational] actions to protect the grid.

In conclusion, he said, Many experts believe it would be prudent, on a prioritized basis, to install features to protect transformers and other critical grid components.

Frank Koza - Executive Director, Support Operations, PJM Interconnection LLC

Frank Koza laid out a series of recommendations to address GMD risks. Calling for power companies to take responsibility to address GMD risks for their systems, he proposed: Each asset owner must determine the overall health of its EHV transformers, and develop GIC protection measures for vulnerable transformers. In addition, he said asset owners should: Implement GIC withstand capability in any new transformers, and also called on asset owners to develop operating procedures and deploy monitoring equipment.

Pointing to the need for additional modeling, he recommended that power companies ...include GMD impacts in power system analysis. Why is this needed? At the current level of knowledge, he said, no one can definitively say whether the above [procedural and transformer specification] steps will protect the transformers, nor do we know whether an immediately large scale investment would adequately address the risk, nor meet cost benefit requirements.

John Kappenman, Storm Analysis Consultants

In his comments, John Kappenman pointed out that the fundamental conclusions about Power Grid vulnerability do not depend on any detailed model. Assessments of the overall grid risk, he explained, can be made by simply reviewing and extrapolating existing data. Simple extrapolations from measured data leads to the conclusions, he explained.

Where are we in addressing this risk? No standards exist for [GIC] rating for transformers, he pointed out. Furthermore, he said, Even in transformers that are supposedly built to have GIC withstand, manufacturers are not able to physically test them to the withstand.

Speaking of the NERC GMD Taskforce Report, he pointed out that the report, unfortunately, was written without the benefit of any U.S. transformer fleet data gathering. We have a situation where the task force report was developed without sufficient information.

Dr. Ben McConnell - Research Scientist, Lecturer, University of Tennessee

Dr. McConnell, referring to his research, referred to GMD as one of the Achilles heels of civilization. GMD, he explained, came out to be the most serious situation we considered. In fact, he pointed out, malicious EMP threats have the potential to be even greater risks than Space-weather-induced GMD. Natural [GMD] events are less intense than HEMP, he said.

Dr. McConnell joined other panelists in calling for more data. We need good measurements inside the transformers, he said. [We can't hold the data to our vest because we think it is proprietary, he commented on this subject, later in the discussion]. It is a chaotic system, and models aren't enough, and measuring top oil doesn't tell you anything. Nevertheless, he continued, data gathering is not sufficient to resolve the GMD risk. For example, he said, even testing to failure will tell you about one and only one transformer.

Concluding, he spoke of the need for realistic, effective grid protection. One of the best ways to protect the grid is in an islanding mode, but we are not in that configuration. His overall recommendation: We need to not do research, we need to get something done. Why? If a tenth of the transformers go down, he explained, we'd be in a world of hurt.

John Houston - Division Senior Vice President, High Voltage Delivery & Compliance, CenterPoint Energy

In his comments, John Houston warned against the risk of complacency and making optimistic assumptions. It is a debatable point whether our systems can be protected by a voltage collapse, he said. And even the most positive scenarios, he pointed out, would not justify complacency. Voltage collapse, while better than widespread damage, is still not good for our industry.

Questions from the Moderator, Joseph McClelland (FERC)

Based on the developing dialogue, Joseph McClelland asked panelists to discuss the trend of GMD vulnerability of the power grid. Are we [unintentionally] making the grid more vulnerable? he asked. He also asked, in regard to the procedural or operational measures, Where should the GIC monitors go and what level should we take action?

Highlights of panelist responses to the moderator's questions:

Frank Koza (PJM Interconnection): Answering the question on the level at which action should be taken, he said: PJM - takes action when we get 10 Amps of GIC at our monitoring station. This came out of the 1989 event and the damage to the Salem transformer, he explained.

John Houston (CenterPoint Energy): We've modernized since 1921 and it's more vulnerable. We are adding more antenna, and you have to do something about that.

Mark Lauby - Vice President and Director of Reliability Assessment and Performance Analysis, North American Electric Reliability Corporation

The [NERC GMD Taskforce Interim] Report talks about the need for monitoring GIC flows, and for sharing that data. Referring to an existing example of how grid hardware protection can be accomplished, he added: Over 200 miles, we have series compensation, and that eliminates GIC.

Joe McClelland (FERC -- Moderator)

Referring to a hoped-for positive, best case voltage collapse scenario, [i.e, timing and phenomenology of a severe GMD event such that the grid would fail in a best-case voltage collapse mode, minimizing permanent damage], Voltage collapse to protect the grid isn't an acceptable solution, he said. Even if we were to depend on such a best case scenario, he explained, the resulting short term blackout would also be a serious problem. We could buy a lot of mitigation for $4 - $10 Billion dollars, [the estimated cost of the 2003 North East blackout], he said.

Supplemental summary material from Panel 1

An important, overall conclusion from all the Panel 1 dialogue related to the need for a collective, coordinated, power-grid-wide process to provide the required protection.

In this regards, panel members all concurred that grid protection cannot be done individually or in isolation. It must be done collectively - on an interconnection-wide basis.

The need for a national standard was also broadly discussed. The conclusion: all panelists agreed that a standard would be necessary to assure effective and consistent protection -and grid collapse, all panelists agreed, is not an acceptable manner in which to address GMD .

Highlights of concluding Panel 1 discussion:

Near the end of the Panel 1 discussion, most panelists included, in their final remarks, comments aimed at summing up the overall sense of the panel dialogue. Below are highlights of some of these concluding, summary assessments.

John Houston (CenterPoint Energy) called for a coordinated plan to protect the grid against GMD. We need a coordinated plan, otherwise blocking GMD becomes a game of 'whack-a-mole,' he said. Investment - either in mitigation or recovery - is inevitable, he explained. Asset owners are going to invest either in protection or in clean up afterwards.

Mark Lauby (NERC), agreed that there may be a need for current blockers. Some solutions may involve blocking GICs from coming onto the system, he said.

Joe McClelland (FERC -- Moderator) pointed out there seemed to be a consensus among the panelists. I'm hearing consensus that this will take a coordinated effort, he said.

Mark Lauby (NERC), responding in turn to Joe McClelland, concurred with the need for coordinated effort, and also pointed called for a look, in response, at appropriate standards. I agree, he said, following Joe McClelland's assessment of the need for coordinated effort. And our report calls for a look at NERC standards.

Richard Waggel (FERC), emphasizing the need for standard-driven coordinated effort, pointed out that the most optimistic scenarios are, in any case, unlikely. .. combining the possibility of the protection systems not operating and the breakers maybe not being able to interrupt, is it really conceivable to rely on a system collapse in that case? he asked.

Scott Pugh (DHS) also concurred with the importance of a coordinated, standard-based plan, pointing out that such a plan should not depend solely on procedural / operational measures. To think that NOAA could issue a warning at 3 A.M. on an average night and have everyone notice it, react to it perfectly ... that's sort of hard to imagine that going off perfectly, because we don't rehearse that very often. We ought to look at ways to protect the grid, not just rely on operators dealing with it.

Joe McClelland (FERC - Moderator), addressed concluding remarks to the balance of more analysis versus steps toward protection, pointing out that the existing agreement among the different models suggests we have a dependable basis now to go forward. If our previous model and the open source EPRI model give the same results, we've validated that both work. The results are what matter, he said.

John Kappenman (Storm Analysis), added to this assessment, pointing out that there is specific data on transformer damage, consistent with model predictions. Damage to the Salem transformer occurred within about a minute, he pointed out. Heating high enough to melt the windings.

Dr. Ben McConnell (University of Tennessee), said, addressing some of his concluding remarks to the trend, or direction, of vulnerability over time, as older transformers are replaced by new, low loss transformers: Very low loss steels in the [new] transformers have a very sharp knee... A little GIC and you are into super-saturation... The core will heat up extremely fast... The convective flow model is now completely blown away.

Frank Koza (PJM Interconnection), adding his own concluding remarks and, building on the panel's consensus on the need for a coordinated, standard-based plan, said: Each asset owner must identify their key transformers and develop a protection strategy. it could be [GIC] blocking, it could be [vulnerable transformer] replacement.

Panel II: Moving Forward on GMD

Panelists were asked to address two questions:

(1) What, if any, actions should the Commission, NERC, or industry undertake in response to the NERC report or other related assessments? This question included specific queries on the need for further studies, transformer data gathering, sparing and GMD specification, developing operating and training rules and reliability standards.

(2) What are the costs of potential mitigation options considered to date? This includes operational procedures, protection hardware or software and warning hardware or software.

William Murtagh - Program Coordinator, Space Weather Prediction Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Addressing the utility of the current K Scale standard for warning of the strength of an impending GMD event as guidance for power industry operating decisions, William Murtagh said The K-scale is not very useful for GIC warning.

Singh Matharu - Senior Engineer, Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Singh Matharu pointed out that nuclear power plant safety standards today depend on a highly reliable power grid. NRC assumes high reliability of electric grid for safe operation of reactors and cooling of spent fuel, he said.

In this regard, he continued, After the 1989 [geomagnetic] storm, NRC issued an information notice titled 'Failure of electrical power equipment due to geomagnetic disturbances'. The intent was to alert nuclear plant owners about possible failures of electrical equipment at their plants and the transmission system due to solar magnetic disturbances.

Finally, he pointed out, there are two issues to be addressed by nuclear power plants - both reliable grid-based power, and vulnerability of nuclear power plant electrical hardware. Availability of offsite power is [only] one variable, he said, because we do have transformers, connections and breakers, and we know there is a vulnerability there. As far as the plant transformers (GSUs).

Michael Cousins, Head of Energy Resilience, UK Department of Energy and Climate Change)

In the UK we expect a large space weather event to have moderate to severe impacts on the grid. Addressing options for protection being considered, he said there are two main methods: operational and hardening. Take hardening: the primary TSO has adopted design standards for transformers to make them better able to withstand GIC, and it has increased its spare holding of transformers. Consideration is being given to installation of series capacitors on certain transmission lines, he said. In regard to new GIC current blocker prototypes now becoming available, There has been a watchful eye on the development of neutral current blocking devices, he said.

Finally, he added, procedural approaches also play a role. Last month we exercised our rotor disconnection procedures.

Overall, he suggested, the power industry may be at the beginning of a new phase of protection. The UK sees this as a long term, continual improvement type of process, he said in his final remarks.

Gerry Cauley - President and CEO, North American Electric Reliability Corporation

Early in his remarks, Gerry Cauley provided a clarification of the conclusions of the NERC GMD Taskforce Report. The report, he explained, points out both a risk for voltage collapse and for power grid hardware damage. The NERC task force report points out two key risks, one for system disturbance and voltage collapse, and the other for potential equipment damage. The report did not claim grid hardware damage would be avoided by voltage collapse, he explained. I think there were some things said earlier in the first panel, about NERC's theory that voltage collapse will save the day. I don't recall seeing that. I don't think that was intended to be the implication of the NERC study.

Hardware damage and voltage collapse are two separate risks, he said. I think what we're saying is that there are dueling concerns. The magnitude of a voltage collapse can be significant, as we saw in hydro Quebec, we also know there is evidence of equipment damage, but we need to put each in perspective in terms of what the information tells us, and the magnitudes of each of those two risks, supported by data and historical information.

Characterizing the report as just a starting point, he said, The intent of the report was to put 20 recommendations on the table. I view it as a starting point and a roadmap. It is not the end of the road. He also agreed that more data is needed. One thing we heard this morning that I agree with is the need for more data. I would be an advocate of data devices that could monitor the current themselves at key locations, as well as the performance and response of system equipment to those events. He concluded with praise for the power industry's seriousness in addressing the GMD threat, and for the progress being made through the dialogue taking place today at the FERC technical conference, I'm encouraged by the industry's response and the seriousness with which they're taking the issue, and I think this discussion today will help progress for the future.

Michael Heyeck, Senior Vice President of Transmission, American Electric Power Company

Michael Heyeck focused on what AEP is already doing, and urged others to act. What is it that we can do right now, and what are we doing right now? We are sparing transformers. [...] "We have drop-in control houses, and we're using a Faraday cage approach and shielding the wires to try to deal with the high altitude EMP. We have no results; we