Drill Simulates Crippling Blow to Power Grid

Nov 12, 2013

Connecticut Light and Power will participate in a two-day drill simulating attacks on the power grid. The exercise is being staged by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) and will include hundreds of utilities from across North America.
Credit Flickr Creative Commons, angeloangelo

As concerns over the security of America's electrical infrastructure continue to grow, Connecticut Light & Power and the United Illuminating Company said they will both take part in a multi-national security exercise this week. The drill will be run by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (also known as NERC) and will include Homeland Security, FBI officials, and hundreds of utilities. 

Brian Harrell is one of the organizers. Speaking on The Colin McEnroe Show in October, he said NERC will simulate a variety of physical and cyber attacks on Connecticut's electrical infrastructure. "These attacks will cause utilities to enact their crisis response plans and walk through the internal security procedures that they have," Harrell said. " The goals for the exercise really center on identifying potential improvements for their security plans, their programs, and their additional responder skills." Harrell stressed the simulation will not impact power generation, transmission or distribution for customers. 

The last NERC simulation was in 2011 and focused heavily on cyber security. This year's exercise will have computer attacks, but also include a variety of simulated physical assaults. Harrell said, "I think we will have some generation and transmission facilities that may be attacked with some explosives. Maybe some high powered rifles that damage key assets. Players will probably also experience an active shooter scenario. What we are trying to do is really throw at our players ... kind of a worst-case scenario."

NERC runs these simulations every two years. Harrell said the 2015 exercise may focus on interdependency issues -- for example, how water or coal would make its way to an energy plant during an emergency.