Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System

Electrical grid is said to be vulnerable to terrorist attack. I can agree that electrical power distribution network would be quite vulnerable if someone tries to sabotage it and knows what to do. I know this because I design software and hardware for control systems for electrical companies.

Some days ago I saw in Finnish television an interesting documentary Suomi polvilleen 15 minuutissa (viewable on Yle Areena at least for Finnish people still for few weeks). It says that in Finland there has been debate on how many weeks the army could protect the country against potential attacks. The document says that the country could collapse in 15 minutes if some outside attacker or a small terrorist group would attack to certain key point in power network. Practically nothing would work anymore without power and it will take quite bit of time to get replacement parts for some key component. There are not too many spare parts and it it take months or a year to build a new big high voltage distribution transformer.

This vulnerability would hold to practically all developed countries. I have understood that Finnish electrical power distribution network would be in pretty good condition compared to electrical power networks on some other countries. I think that in many countries could quite easily cause huge problems by damaging some key points on power distribution network. Those attacks could be either cyber-attacks or attacks or damaging physical infrastructure.

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In USA there has been lots of talk lately about electrical grid vulnerability to terrorist attack. There are warnings like this: Cyber-terrorists could target the U.S. electrical grid and throw the nation into chaos. And there is indeed some truth on those because this critical infrastructure is vital to a country’s economy and security, not a new target for terrorist groups (there have been documented incidents since the 1970s), inherently vulnerable (economical and practical reasons) and extremely hard to protect well. The electric power delivery system that carries electricity from large central generators to customers could be severely damaged by a small number of well-informed attackers. The system is inherently vulnerable because transmission lines may span hundreds of miles. Electrical infrastructure is not necessarily a new target for terrorist groups- there have been documented incidents since the 1970s.

New York Times writes that Terrorists could black out large segments of the United States for weeks or months by attacking the power grid and damaging hard-to-replace components that are crucial to making it work. By blowing up substations or transmission lines with explosives or by firing projectiles at them from a distance, the report said, terrorists could cause cascading failures and damage parts that would take months to repair or replace.

Remember the fact that causing large scale problems for long time is usually hard. In Debunking Theories of a Terrorist Power Grab article a Penn State power-system expert cites laws of physics to pull the plug on worries that a terrorist attack on a minor substation could bring down the entire U.S. electric grid. The most vulnerable points are the ones that have the most energy flowing through them — like huge power stations or highly connected transformers. Those are the ones that should be well protected well and there should not be too much worrying on protecting smaller transformers.

Here are few links to articles for more information:

There is also a free book Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System on-line covering those topics. Check it out if you want to learn more. It gives you much more background than those articles.

350 Comments

  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    What caused the electric-power fiasco in #Texas and what can now be done to make sure that it never happens again? Grid expert Robert Hebner of the University of Texas at Austin lays it all out.

    What the Texas-Freeze Fiasco Tells Us About The Future of the Grid
    https://spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/energy/the-smarter-grid/what-texas-freeze-fiasco-tells-us-about-future-of-the-grid

    Reply
  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Hackers Tied to Russia’s GRU Targeted the US Grid for Years, Researchers Warn
    https://www.wired.com/story/russia-gru-hackers-us-grid/

    A Sandworm-adjacent group has successfully breached US critical infrastructure a handful of times, according to new findings from the security firm Dragos.

    FOR ALL THE nation-state hacker groups that have targeted the United States power grid—and even successfully breached American electric utilities—only the Russian military intelligence group known as Sandworm has been brazen enough to trigger actual blackouts, shutting the lights off in Ukraine in 2015 and 2016. Now one grid-focused security firm is warning that a group with ties to Sandworm’s uniquely dangerous hackers has also been actively targeting the US energy system for years.

    Reply
  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Texas’ deregulated electricity system worked much of the time, but failed when needed most. UT’s James K. Galbraith says policymakers failed, too.

    One of Texas’ most prominent left-leaning economists knows exactly why its power grid failed
    https://trib.al/NUa59rx

    Economist James K. Galbraith said policymakers failed Texas during the state’s recent power outage.
    Texas’ deregulated electrical system incentivized the cheapest production without accounting for resilient machinery.
    Galbraith says the only way to fix the system is to turn it into a public utility.

    Millions of Texans lost power last week and were stuck living in freezing conditions as their electrical bills skyrocketed. The crisis was totally preventable, according to a left-leaning economist who teaches at the University of Texas at Austin, and the reason why has to do with the state’s deregulated electricity system.

    James Kenneth Galbraith, a government professor at the University of Texas at Austin, wrote in a Project Syndicate commentary that these failures were baked into Texas’ power grid as soon it embraced deregulation under former Gov. Rick Perry in 2002. 

    The Texas system had three vulnerabilities, according to his commentary:

    Competition to provide power in the cheapest way possible meant that machinery was not well-enough insulated against extreme cold;

    Wholesale prices could fluctuate while retail prices depended on consumer contracts;

    And prices would rise when demand for power was the greatest.

    Galbraith told Insider that while Texas created an incentive for energy producers to produce in the cheapest way possible, it didn’t provide another to build resilience into the system for extreme events. This caused demand to go up while supply for electrical sources went down, causing major losses of power.

    “The facilities that are fed by natural gas ran into a freezing up of their meters, pumps and fuel lines. In some cases, the power plants went offline and they had to cut power to the wells,” Galbraith said. “So that was kind of a death spiral. At the same time, the consumer demand was going up very quickly, and in an electrical system, supply and demand have to be balanced at all times.”

    “They should have kept the system under a full-fledged regulatory regime, which other states have,” Galbraith said. “And that meant that they should have been supervising the generating companies to ensure that they were doing a proper job of being prepared for worst-case scenarios. It’s not hard to work out what they should have done.”

    If the state’s leaders took action in 2011, the 2021 freeze could have gone over much differently. But since it didn’t, Galbraith said he’s not sure if there’s a way forward that doesn’t involve taking over the whole system and making it a public utility that decides on distributions and investments.

    Reply
  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    If there’s data you really want to protect to prepare for the next Carrington Event, write it to a DVD.

    Ask Ethan: How Prepared Are We For The Next Giant Solar Flare?
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2021/02/26/ask-ethan-how-prepared-are-we-for-the-next-giant-solar-flare/?sh=4364c794196e

    In 1859, the science of solar physics truly began with the largest eruption in recorded history: the Carrington event. Prior to this time, many people had observed the Sun: counting and monitoring sunspots, watching the Sun’s differential rotation rate, and making a potential link between sunspot activity, the Earth’s magnetic field, and observations of Earth’s aurora. But when astronomers Richard Carrington and Richard Hodgson noticed an enormous “white light flare” on the Sun on September 1, 1859, we realized that the Sun and the Earth were connected as never before. Just 17 hours later, Earth experienced the largest geomagnetic storm ever recorded, and the worldwide reports of its effects are now legendary. Knowing that these events happen regularly, are we now prepared for the inevitable? That’s what Erich Rathkamp wants to know, asking:

    “a CME the size of the 1859 Carrington Event would, if not prepared for, effectively level the power grid of the United States… Can we actually provide a full day’s worth of warning? Is a sufficient warning period actually significant enough to allow us to survive a Carrington class [event?] …if a Carrington class event were to be detected tomorrow, would we actually be able to survive it effectively?”

    If everything lines up in exactly the wrong way, the outcome can be disastrous. If a solar flare causes a coronal mass ejection, and if that coronal mass ejection is high in energy, and if the particles from it head directly for Earth, and — one more thing — if the magnetic field of the ejected material and the magnetic field of Earth are anti-aligned, that’s a recipe for maximum damage to our planet: infrastructure, electronics, and a whole lot more. That’s almost certainly what happened 162 years ago, when the now-infamous Carrington event occurred.

    The estimates for how much damage — if we do nothing to mitigate it — would occur. The power grids of most countries would be completely and effectively leveled. The top way to mitigate the effects of such a flare would be through increased grounding, so that the large currents that would otherwise flow through grid wires would instead flow directly into the Earth. Every time power companies attempt to do this, however, what winds up happening instead is that the conducting substance used for grounding (such as copper) is stolen for its material value.

    As a result, we have under-grounded power stations and substations that would experience enormous induced currents, and that will typically lead to fires, followed by significant damage and destruction to our infrastructure. Not only are we talking about a multi-trillion dollar disaster (the damage to the United States alone has been estimated as high as $2.6 trillion), we’re talking about large swaths of the world’s population being left without power for extended periods of time: potentially for years. When you consider what happened in Texas just very recently when they got hit with freezing temperatures and many areas lost power, there’s the risk of an extremely large number of casualties; for many people, electricity is necessary to sustain their lives.

    The Carrington event was not some massive outlier that only occurs once every few million years, either. Many solar flares have struck Earth, some of which have caused localized damage to the power grid. A 1972 set of solar storms caused a widespread disruption of electrical and telecommunications grids, satellite disruptions, and even caused the accidental detonation of naval mines in Vietnam. A 1989 geomagnetic storm caused a complete outage of Quebec’s electricity transmission system. And a 2005 solar storm knocked the GPS network offline. These events may have been damaging, but they were only warning shots compared to what nature inevitably has in store for us.

    This solar telescope behaves as a Sun-measuring magnetometer, capable of measuring the magnetic field on the Sun and in the solar corona, allowing us to know whether an Earth-directed coronal mass ejection has exactly the wrong magnetic field for our planet at the moment. If one is detected, we have a chance to take large-scale mitigations, which include:

    having power companies cut off the currents in their electrical grids, which takes gradual ramping-down on the timeframe of approximately ~24 hours to do responsibly,

    to disconnect and (if possible) ground stations and substations, so that large induced currents don’t flow into homes, businesses, and industrial buildings, creating fires,

    and to issue recommendations for residents at home on how to safely cope: unplugging all of your appliances and electronics, disconnecting certain wires and systems, etc.

    In a worst-case scenario, the flare would arrive during a cold snap affecting the Northern Hemisphere during its winter. It would knock power offline for the majority of the developed world, leaving billions without heat or power. The storage and distribution of food and water might be knocked out, leaving billions to fend for themselves. Our satellite systems could be knocked offline as well; any system that relies on computerized maneuvers to avoid collisions could instead start a catastrophic chain-reaction of satellite impacts in low-Earth orbit. If we fail to prepare, a single event could set us back decades as a civilization.

    In a very real sense, the danger is definitely coming; it’s only a question of when. If we do nothing to prepare, when “the big one” hits, we can look forward to trillions of dollars worth of infrastructure damage and, quite possibly, an enormous number of deaths. But if we can prepare our power grid, distribution system, and global citizens to be ready for the inevitable, we truly have the capacity to effectively survive even a Carrington-type event. We just need to make the effort and the investment in prevention. Otherwise, we’ll be paying for it many times over, for years or even decades to come.

    Reply
  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Supergraafi näyttää, miten Euroopan sähköverkko rakentuu ja toimii – Baltiassa tulossa iso ja kallis muutos
    Sofia Virtanen24.2.202108:02SÄHKÖENERGIAINFRA
    Euroopassa on viisi vaihtovirtasähköverkkoa, jotka kytkeytyvät toisiinsa tasavirtayhteyksin
    https://www.tekniikkatalous.fi/uutiset/supergraafi-nayttaa-miten-euroopan-sahkoverkko-rakentuu-ja-toimii-baltiassa-tulossa-iso-ja-kallis-muutos/2c79fbb6-7fce-4759-b5cf-8f9e1e1f3100

    Reply
  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    After the storm left millions of Texans without power, some reported seeing high electricity bills. Many of those who reported the bills are customers of Griddy.

    ERCOT revokes electricity provider Griddy’s rights to operate due to ‘payment breach’
    https://abc13.com/10374198/?ex_cid=TA_KTRK_FB&utm_campaign=trueAnthem%3A+Trending+Content&utm_medium=trueAnthem&utm_source=facebook

    The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages Texas’ power grid and has received massive backlash for their actions during last week’s winter storm, has revoked electricity provider Griddy’s rights to operate due to a “payment breach.”

    According to a notice issued by ERCOT on Friday, Griddy Energy must stop conducting activity under ERCOT protocols due to the breach.

    A Chambers County resident recently filed a class-action lawsuit against Griddy, accusing the provider of price gouging customers during last week’s freeze. She is seeking $1 billion in relief for affected customers.

    bill spiked to $9,340 the week of the storm, compared to her average monthly bills that range from $200 to $250.

    Griddy, which launched in 2017, charges $10 a month to give people a way to pay wholesale prices for electricity instead of a fixed rate. It warned customers of raising prices and urged them to switch providers. The company said wholesale prices returned to normal as of Feb. 20.

    The company states that it did not profit from raised prices.

    Reply
  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    WINTER STORM 2021
    Texas leaders failed to heed warnings that left the state’s power grid vulnerable to winter extremes, experts say
    https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/17/texas-power-grid-failures/amp/

    Texas officials knew winter storms could leave the state’s power grid vulnerable, but they left the choice to prepare for harsh weather up to the power companies — many of which opted against the costly upgrades. That, plus a deregulated energy market largely isolated from the rest of the country’s power grid, left the state alone to deal with the crisis, experts said.

    Energy and policy experts said Texas’ decision not to require equipment upgrades to better withstand extreme winter temperatures, and choice to operate mostly isolated from other grids in the U.S. left power system unprepared for the winter crisis.

    Winter Storm 2021
    As Texas faced record-low temperatures this February and snow and ice made roads impassable, the state’s electric grid operator lost control of the power supply, leaving millions without access to electricity. As the blackouts extended from hours to days, top state lawmakers called for investigations into the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, and Texans demanded accountability for the disaster.

    Millions of Texans have gone days without power or heat in subfreezing temperatures brought on by snow and ice storms. Limited regulations on companies that generate power and a history of isolating Texas from federal oversight help explain the crisis, energy and policy experts told The Texas Tribune.

    While Texas Republicans were quick to pounce on renewable energy and to blame frozen wind turbines, the natural gas, nuclear and coal plants that provide most of the state’s energy also struggled to operate during the storm. Officials with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the energy grid operator for most of the state, said that the state’s power system was simply no match for the deep freeze.

    “Nuclear units, gas units, wind turbines, even solar, in different ways — the very cold weather and snow has impacted every type of generator,” said Dan Woodfin, a senior director at ERCOT.

    “Clearly we need to change our regulatory focus to protect the people, not profits,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, a now-retired former director of Public Citizen, an Austin-based consumer advocacy group who advocated for changes after in 2011 when Texas faced a similar energy crisis.

    “Instead of taking any regulatory action, we ended up getting guidelines that were unenforceable and largely ignored in [power companies’] rush for profits,” he said.

    It is possible to “winterize” natural gas power plants, natural gas production, wind turbines and other energy infrastructure

    In 2011, Texas faced a very similar storm that froze natural gas wells and affected coal plants and wind turbines, leading to power outages across the state. A decade later, Texas power generators have still not made all the investments necessary to prevent plants from tripping offline during extreme cold, experts said.

    The North American Electric Reliability Corporation, which has some authority to regulate power generators in the U.S., is currently developing mandatory standards for “winterizing” energy infrastructure, a spokesperson said.

    After temperatures plummeted and snow covered large parts of the state Sunday night, ERCOT warned increased demand might lead to short-term, rolling blackouts. Instead, huge portions of the largest cities in Texas went dark and have remained without heat or power for days. On Tuesday, nearly 60% of Houston households and businesses were without power. Of the total installed capacity to the electric grid, about 40% went offline during the storm, Woodfin said.

    Climate wake-up call
    Climate scientists in Texas agree with ERCOT leaders that this week’s storm was unprecedented in some ways. They also say it’s evidence that Texas is not prepared to handle an increasing number of more volatile and more extreme weather events.

    Rhodes, of UT Austin, said Texas policy makers should consider more connections to the rest of the country. That, he acknowledged, could come at a higher financial cost — and so will any improvements to the grid to prevent future disasters. There’s an open question as to whether Texas leadership will be willing to fund, or politically support, any of these options.

    “We need to have a conversation about if we believe that we’re going to have more weather events like this,” Rhodes said. “On some level, it comes down to if you want a more resilient grid, we can build it, it will just cost more money. What are you willing to pay? We’re going to have to confront that.”

    Reply
  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Brazos Electric Power Cooperative said it disputes a $1.8 billion bill from the state’s electrical grid operator.

    Texas Electricity Firm Files For Bankruptcy After Winter Storm Blackouts
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/roberthart/2021/03/01/texas-electricity-firm-files-for-bankruptcy-after-winter-storm-blackouts/?utm_campaign=forbes&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_term=Gordie

    Texas’ largest and oldest electric power cooperative filed for bankruptcy protection Monday after being hit with a $1.8 billion bill from the state’s grid operator following severe cold weather that left millions without power and many facing astronomically high energy bills due to the state’s free market approach to energy.

    Brazos Electric Power Cooperative filed for bankruptcy in a Houston federal court Monday, citing assets and liabilities between $1 billion and $10 billion. 

    Severe cold weather led to widespread power outages and sky high energy rates as demand for electricity soared, with some firms, such as Brazos, having to pay a premium in order to meet their existing commitments. 

    In court filings, Brazos said it received a $1.8 billion bill from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), Texas’ grid operator, which it disputed. 

    Reply
  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The company allegedly misled its customers about the risks of its payment scheme and sent out sky-high bills during the storm.

    Texas Sues Griddy, Energy Company It Says Auto-Debited ‘Astronomical’ Bills During The Winter Storm
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/roberthart/2021/03/01/texas-sues-griddy-energy-company-it-says-auto-debited-astronomical-bills-during-the-winter-storm/?utm_campaign=forbes&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_term=Gordie

    Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued electricity company Griddy for “false, misleading, and deceptive advertising and marketing practices” Monday after the company billed and auto-collected what the lawsuit describes as “astronomical” sums of money from vulnerable customers during the severe winter storm in February that almost crippled the state’s energy grid and left millions without power or water. 

    Unlike traditional power retailers, Griddy connects its customers to the wholesale electricity market and passes these costs directly on to the consumer. 

    “Griddy’s marketing persistently misled its customers about the nature and extent of” the risks and costs this system entails, the lawsuit said, emphasizing the savings during periods of stability and failing to prepare its customers for the possibility of “astronomical charges” at times of increased demand, which occurred during the winter storm  

    “Griddy misled Texans and signed them up for services which, in a time of crisis, resulted in individual Texans each losing thousands of dollars,” Paxton said in a statement, adding that “Griddy made the suffering (of those in the storm) even worse as it debited outrageous amounts each day.” 

    Record-breaking cold in February brought Texas’ electrical grid to the brink of collapse, with rolling blackouts instituted to try and retain control. The surge in demand caused by these prolonged power outages precipitated a spike in prices that Giddy passed on to its consumers. The company has already been hit with a $1 billion class action from customers accusing it of price gouging and the company has been effectively powered down by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) due to lack of payment. In a statement, Griddy highlighted that although ERCOT has predicted billions in shortfall, ”it decided to take this action against only one company that represents a tiny fraction of the market and that shortfall.” 

    Reply
  10. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Texas’ largest and oldest electric power cooperative, Brazos Electric Power Cooperative, filed for bankruptcy Monday after being hit with a $1.8 billion bill from the state’s grid operator. 
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/roberthart/2021/03/01/texas-sues-griddy-energy-company-it-says-auto-debited-astronomical-bills-during-the-winter-storm/?utm_campaign=forbes&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_term=Gordie

    Reply
  11. Tomi Engdahl says:

    China-linked Group RedEcho Targets the Indian Power Sector Amid
    Heightened Border Tensions
    https://www.recordedfuture.com/redecho-targeting-indian-power-sector/
    In this research, we outlined a series of suspected targeted
    intrusions against Indias power sector that were observed beginning in
    mid-2020. The intrusions were conducted by a China-linked activity
    group we track as RedEcho. The group made heavy use of
    AXIOMATICASYMPTOTE a term we use to track infrastructure that
    comprises ShadowPad C2s, which is shared between several Chinese
    threat . activity groups, including APT41/Barium, Tonto team, the
    Icefog cluster, KeyBoy, and Tick.. Report at
    https://go.recordedfuture.com/hubfs/reports/cta-2021-0228.pdf

    Reply
  12. Tomi Engdahl says:

    ‘It was human error’: Cyberattacks took place but didn’t cause Mumbai
    power outage, says govt
    https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/2020-mumbai-power-outage-caused-by-human-error-not-cyber-attack-union-power-minister/articleshow/81292545.cms
    Union power minister RK Singh on Tuesday denied reports that Chinese
    cyberattacks led to a major power outage in Mumbai last year, saying
    there is no evidence to connect the grid failure to a hacking attempt.

    Reply
  13. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Millions were left without heat in the record cold.

    Congressional Investigation Launched Into Texas Power Outages
    https://trib.al/c9VVqF2

    Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight Environment Subcommittee, sent a seven-page letter to the Texas electric grid manager Wednesday requesting a trove of documents relating to winter weather preparedness.

    Khanna has asked for all documents the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has relating to extreme winter weather preparedness since 2010, along with documents from cold snaps in 1989 and 2011, which also put strain on the electric grid.

    Record cold temperatures after a winter storm in mid-February nearly led to the complete failure of the Texas power grid.

    Reply
  14. Tomi Engdahl says:

    “Extreme winter weather events in Texas have occurred repeatedly over decades and ERCOT has been unprepared for them,” Khanna said in a letter to Bill Magness, CEO of ERCOT. 

    Reply
  15. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Magness had previously defended ERCOT’s actions saying that Texas was just moments away from losing power for weeks or even months.

    Board Of Texas Power Grid ERCOT Votes To Remove CEO Magness After February Blackouts
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/siladityaray/2021/03/04/board-of-texas-power-grid-ercot-votes-to-remove-ceo-magness-after-february-blackouts/?utm_campaign=forbes&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_term=Gordie

    The board of Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT)—the organization that oversees the state’s power grid—voted to fire its CEO and President Bill Magness after an emergency meeting on Wednesday night, marking the most significant fallout from the widespread power outages that enveloped Texas last month during a severe winter storm.

    The board voted 6-1 in favor of issuing Magness a “60-day termination notice,” adding him to a string of departures from ERCOT’s board after last month’s events.

    Magness’ removal comes after the resignation of seven other board members who had quit after public criticism that many board members did not reside in Texas.

    Last week, Magness faced more than five hours of intense questioning by state senators in Texas, who criticized him for the organization’s lack of preparations in the face of a winter storm. Magness, however, defended ERCOT’s handling of the crisis, telling lawmakers if operators had not acted as they did the situation would have been worse and Texans would likely be without power for weeks. Earlier in February, Magness said Texas’ power grid was “seconds and minutes” away from a catastrophic disaster that would have left the state’s residents without power for months.

    CEO of Texas power grid operator “terminated” in aftermath of winter storm
    https://www.texastribune.org/2021/03/02/ercot-texas-bill-magness/

    Reply
  16. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Griddy Energy, the Texas company that sent sky-high electricity bills to customers during the life-threatening winter storm last month, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the Southern District of Texas.

    Texas energy company that charged huge electric bills during storm files for bankruptcy
    https://kvia.com/news/us-world/2021/03/15/texas-energy-company-that-charged-huge-electric-bills-during-storm-files-for-bankruptcy/

    Griddy Energy, the Texas company that sent sky-high electricity bills to customers during the life-threatening winter storm last month, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the Southern District of Texas on Monday.

    The company made the announcement on its website in a post that blamed the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates the state’s electric grid.

    “The actions of ERCOT destroyed our business and caused financial harm to our customers,” Griddy Chief Executive Officer Michael Fallquist said in a statement.

    Griddy has $1 million to $10 million in estimated assets and $10 million to $50 million in estimated liabilities, the company said in the filing. Over $29 million is owed to ERCOT, the filing says.

    The bankruptcy filing stems from February’s devastating winter storm, which shut down power for millions of Texans for days and led to shortages of heat, water, food and medicine.

    Griddy was a feature of Texas’ unusual, deregulated system for electric power. The vast majority of Texans — and Americans — pay a fixed rate for electric power and get predictable monthly bills. However, Griddy works by connecting customers to the wholesale market for electricity, which can change by the minute and is more volatile, for a monthly fee of $9.99.

    That setup can lead to savings sometimes, but also exposes customers to big risks.

    During February’s winter storm, power generators failed and demand for heating shot up. In response, ERCOT raised the price of electricity to the legal limit of $9 per kilowatt hour and kept it there for several days. Griddy customers who didn’t lose power were hit with massive electric bills that were auto-debited from their bank accounts.

    Two weeks ago, Texas’ attorney general filed a lawsuit against Griddy Energy and Griddy Holdings for “false, misleading, and deceptive advertising and marketing practices.” The lawsuit said Griddy misled customers and downplayed the incredible risk of its pricing scheme, which charges the most when customers are most vulnerable.

    https://www.griddy.com/

    Reply
  17. Tomi Engdahl says:

    GOOD NEWS: #Texans with extremely high electric bills after February’s winter storm will no longer have to pay them. Here’s the details:

    Thousands of Texas Griddy Customers Will No Longer Have To Pay Pricey Bills
    https://lonestar925.iheart.com/content/2021-03-16-thousands-of-texas-griddy-customers-will-no-longer-have-to-pay-pricey-bills/

    Texans saddled with extremely high electric bills after February’s winter storm will no longer have to pay them.

    Nearly 24,000 Griddy Electric customers had their bills forgiven, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced on Tuesday. The unpaid electric bills totaled $29.1 million.

    “My office sued Griddy Energy, under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, to hold them accountable for their escalation of last month’s winter storm disaster by debiting enormous amounts from customer accounts as Texans struggled to survive the storm,” said Paxton in a statement.

    Griddy customers who already paid their bills will also receive some kind of compensation.

    Reply
  18. Tomi Engdahl says:

    US grid at rising risk to cyberattack, says GAO
    https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/543831-government-watchdog-energy-department-must-address-cyber-threats-to
    Distribution systems within the U.S. electrical grid are increasingly
    vulnerable to cyberattack, a government watchdog said in a report
    released Thursday. https://www.gao.gov/assets/gao-21-81.pdf

    Reply
  19. Tomi Engdahl says:

    What Really Happened During the Texas Power Grid Outage?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08mwXICY4JM

    When disaster strikes, the flurry of political positioning and fingerpointing can make it difficult to understand what really happened. This video provides a summary of the facts of the 2021 Texas winter storm.

    This February of 2021, a major winter storm made its way through the U.S. central plains, setting all-time records for low temperatures across the country. One of the biggest impacts of the storm happened here in Texas where people across the state suffered extended outages of electricity and water. It was one of the worst winter weather events in history, creating loss-of-life and economic impacts that will take years to unfold. Many are still recovering from the storm and will be for years to come.

    Practical Engineering is a YouTube channel about infrastructure and the human-made world around us

    Reply
  20. Tomi Engdahl says:

    How Power Blackouts Work
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_HGnc63QKU

    Exploring the protective systems that keep the power grid from self destructing.

    We usually think of the power grid in terms of its visible parts: power plants, high-voltage lines, and substations. But, much of the complexity of power grid comes in how we protect it when things go wrong. When your power goes out, it’s easy to be frustrated at the inconvenience, but consider also being thankful that it probably means things are working as designed to protect the grid as a whole and ensure a speedy and cost-effective repair to the fault.

    Reply
  21. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Biden Races to Shore Up Power Grid Against Hacks
    https://threatpost.com/biden-power-grid-hacks/165428/
    A 100-day race to boost cybersecurity will rely on incentives rather
    than regulation, the White House said. President Biden is putting the
    final details on a plan to encourage American electric utilities to
    strengthen their cybersecurity protections against hackers in the next
    100 days, amid increasing cyberattacks.

    Reply
  22. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Biden Races to Shore Up Power Grid Against Hacks https://threatpost.com/biden-power-grid-hacks/165428/
    A 100-day race to boost cybersecurity will rely on incentives rather than regulation, the White House said. President Biden is putting the final details on a plan to encourage American electric utilities to strengthen their cybersecurity protections against hackers in the next
    100 days, amid increasing cyberattacks.

    Reply
  23. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Vaurioituuko sähköverkko? Sammuvatko satelliitit? Avaruusfyysikko Minna Palmrothin mielestä ison aurinkomyrskyn ongelmiin pitäisi jo varautua
    Palmroth johtaa huippuyksikköä, joka tutkii ja kehittää myös keinoja vähentää Maata kiertävää avaruusromua.
    https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-11880846

    Reply
  24. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Energy Chief Cites Risk of Cyberattacks Crippling Power Grid
    https://www.securityweek.com/energy-chief-cites-risk-cyberattacks-crippling-power-grid

    Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on Sunday called for more public-private cooperation on cyber defenses and said U.S. adversaries already are capable of using cyber intrusions to shut down the U.S. power grid.

    “I think that there are very malign actors who are trying,” she said. She added: “Even as we speak, there are thousands of attacks on all aspects of the energy sector and the private sector generally.”

    Asked whether American adversaries have the capability now of shutting down the U.S. power grid, she said: “Yes, they do.”

    Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States and other countries should talk to countries such as Russia, which is believed to be the origin on some ransomware attacks, about law enforcement and intelligence cooperation “to shut it down.”

    Rice said this would “test the reality of how much the Russian government is or is not involved” in these attacks.

    Reply
  25. Tomi Engdahl says:

    How the IEC 61850 standard structures the electrical industry
    https://www.stormshield.com/news/how-the-iec-61850-standard-structures-the-electrical-industry/

    The International Electrotechnical Commission writes the standards that govern how the electrical industry works. And among this proliferation of standards – which sometimes come with rather forbidding abbreviations – one has a very special role to play, as it specifies communications for electricity distribution infrastructure. We explain IEC 61850 and the cyber risks it faces.

    Reply
  26. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The National Guard Just Simulated A Cyberattack That Brought Down Utilities Nationwide
    https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/41243/the-national-guard-just-simulated-a-cyberattack-that-brought-down-utilities-nationwide

    This year’s Cyber Yankee exercises simulated the increasingly likely scenario of cyberattacks crippling huge sections of the nation’s infrastructure.

    Reply
  27. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Exclusive: Hacker reveals smart meters are spilling secrets about the Texas snowstorm
    https://www.dailydot.com/debug/hacker-smart-meter-texas-snowstorm/

    Power companies across Texas have refused to disclose which areas of the state were exempt from controlled blackouts after a devastating snowstorm crippled the power grid in February—but one hacker has found that smart meters, the electrical devices on the sides of homes and businesses that monitor energy consumption, are quietly broadcasting data that could be used to determine what infrastructure may have been protected.

    Reply
  28. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Emulating A Power Grid
    https://hackaday.com/2021/06/26/emulating-a-power-grid/

    The electric power grid, as it exists today, was designed about a century ago to accommodate large, dispersed power plants owned and controlled by the utilities themselves. At the time this seemed like a great idea, but as technology and society have progressed the power grid remains stubbornly rooted in this past. Efforts to modify it to accommodate solar and wind farms, electric cars, and other modern technology need to take great effort to work with the ancient grid setup, often requiring intricate modeling like this visual power grid emulator.

    The model is known as LEGOS, the Lite Emulator of Grid Operations, and comes from researchers at RWTH Aachen University. Its goal is to simulate a modern power grid with various generation sources and loads such as homes, offices, or hospitals. It uses a DC circuit to simulate power flow, which is visualized with LEDs. The entire model is modular, so components can be added or subtracted easily to quickly show how the power flow changes as a result of modifications to the grid. There is also a robust automation layer to the entire project, allowing real-time data acquisition of the model to be gathered and analyzed using an open source cloud service called FIWARE.

    Reply
  29. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Smart Grid Task ForceExpert Group 2Recommendations to the European Commission for the Implementation of Sector-Specific Rules for Cybersecurity Aspects of Cross-Border Electricity Flows, on Common Minimum Requirements, Planning, Monitoring, Reporting and Crisis Management.
    https://ec.europa.eu/energy/sites/ener/files/sgtf_eg2_report_final_report_2019.pdf

    Reply
  30. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The National Guard Just Simulated A Cyberattack That Brought Down Utilities Nationwide
    This year’s Cyber Yankee exercises simulated the increasingly likely scenario of cyberattacks crippling huge sections of the nation’s infrastructure.
    https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/41243/the-national-guard-just-simulated-a-cyberattack-that-brought-down-utilities-nationwide

    Reply
  31. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Rural Alabama Electric Cooperative Hit by Ransomware Attack
    https://www.securityweek.com/rural-alabama-electric-cooperative-hit-ransomware-attack

    A utility that provides power in rural southeastern Alabama was hit by a ransomware attack that meant customers temporarily can’t access their account information, but an executive said Tuesday that systems were beginning to be brought back online.

    Reply
  32. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Even short power outages can pose extreme dangers for thousands of people in the U.S. NYU Tandon’s Yury Dvorkin explains how a power outage dashboard can help utilities like ConEd prioritize repairs and protect the electricity vulnerable.

    How to Prevent a Power Outage From Becoming a Crisis
    https://spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/energy/policy/how-to-prevent-a-power-outage-from-becoming-a-crisis

    Reply
  33. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Energy group ERG reports minor disruptions after ransomware attack https://www.bleepingcomputer.com/news/security/energy-group-erg-reports-minor-disruptions-after-ransomware-attack/
    Italian energy company ERG reports “only a few minor disruptions”
    affecting its information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure following a ransomware attack on its systems.

    Reply
  34. Tomi Engdahl says:

    CHINA’S AMBITIOUS PLAN TO BUILD THE WORLD’S BIGGEST SUPERGRID
    A massive expansion leads to the first ultrahigh-voltage AC-DC power grid
    https://spectrum.ieee.org/chinas-ambitious-plan-to-build-the-worlds-biggest-supergrid

    Reply
  35. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Electromagnetic Interference For Fun And Profit
    https://hackaday.com/2021/08/22/electromagnetic-interference-for-fun-and-profit/

    There was an urban legend back in the days of mechanical electricity meters, that there were “lucky” appliances that once plugged in would make the meter go backwards. It probably has its origin in the interaction between a strongly capacitive load and the inductance of the coils in the meter but remains largely apocryphal for the average home user. That’s not to say that a meter can’t be fooled into doing strange things though, as a team at the University of Twente have demonstrated by sending some more modern meters running backwards. How have they performed this miracle? Electromagnetic interference from a dimmer switch.

    How to Earn Money with an EMI Problem: Static Energy Meters Running Backwards
    https://research.utwente.nl/en/publications/how-to-earn-money-with-an-emi-problem-static-energy-meters-runnin

    The increased use of non-linear appliances in households has resulted in several conducted electromagnetic interference issues, such as misreadings of static energy meters used for billing purposes of the households’ energy consumption. In this paper a case is presented where a static energy meter indicates a power generation, while power is actually being consumed. A perceived power generation of more than 430 W is measured by a static energy meter installed in a household when a television with a commercial off the shelf remote controlled switch with dimming functionalities consumed 21 W. The same situation is reproduced in a controlled lab environment, to eliminate possible influences of other appliances in the grid, which confirmed the on-site results. The current waveforms causing this supposed generation of power are investigated and it is observed that the phase firing angle of the current pulse drawn by the load in combination with the commercial off the shelf remote controlled switch affects the metering errors and determines whether the errors indicate a false generation, a too high consumption of power, or no error at all. A combination of the household equipment and a basic unloaded switched mode power supply in conjunction with two remote controlled switches resulted in a perceived power generation of more than 600 W. Having these loads connected for the entire day would counteract the total consumption of an average household and could even “generate” energy, and thus generate money for the consumer.

    Reply
  36. Tomi Engdahl says:

    A bad solar storm could cause an Internet apocalypse https://arstechnica.com/science/2021/08/a-bad-solar-storm-could-cause-an-internet-apocalypse/
    Scientists have known for decades that an extreme solar storm, or coronal mass ejection, could damage electrical grids and potentially cause prolonged blackouts. The repercussions would be felt everywhere from global supply chains and transportation to Internet and GPS access. Less examined until now, though, is the impact such a solar emission could have on Internet infrastructure specifically. New research shows that the failures could be catastrophic, particularly for the undersea cables that underpin the global Internet.

    Reply
  37. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The day after Hurricane Ida barreled through the region with 150 mph winds, the people of New Orleans and Louisiana’s coastal parishes are facing the prospect of weeks without electricity and air-conditioning.

    Ida Inflicts ‘Catastrophic’ Damage To New Orleans Power Grid—Residents Told To Prep For Six Weeks In The Dark
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherhelman/2021/08/30/ida-inflicts-catastrophic-damage-to-new-orleans-power-grid—residents-told-to-prep-for-6-weeks-in-the-dark/?sh=1daad6eb5102&utm_campaign=socialflowForbesMainFB&utm_source=ForbesMainFacebook&utm_medium=social

    Reply
  38. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The Universe is Hostile to Computers
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AaZ_RSt0KP8

    Tiny particles from distant galaxies have caused plane accidents, election interference and game glitches.

    Reply
  39. Tomi Engdahl says:

    What Really Happened During the Texas Power Grid Outage?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08mwXICY4JM

    When disaster strikes, the flurry of political positioning and fingerpointing can make it difficult to understand what really happened. This video provides a summary of the facts of the 2021 Texas winter storm.

    Reply

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