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Tags: powergrid | emp | electromagneticpulse

Prove Required Electric Power Grid Protection is Affordable

Prove Required Electric Power Grid Protection is Affordable

Henry F. Cooper By Tuesday, 23 March 2021 10:42 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

My two most recent Newsmax articles emphasized: 1) The major Texas Grid Failure warned all Americans of the critical dangers of losing electricity and 2) Therefore, President Biden's $1.9 trillion "American Rescue Plan" should include funding to protect all Americans against a major failure of the nation's electric power grid — especially due to a major "solar storm," or Geomagnetic Disturbance (GMD), that for sure will one day occur.

In both articles, I noted that in South Carolina we had demonstrated that protecting the grid is affordable — so the reason the "powers that be" have not done so is political and bureaucratic. Permit me to elaborate.

My May 4, 2017 testimony before Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee described my frustration with failed attempts to get Washington to address the vulnerability of the electric power grid vulnerabilities to natural and manmade Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) events. The Congressional EMP Commission reports from its 20-years' service are maintained on a webpage established by its chairman, Dr. William R. Graham, because the government provided no access for the average American.

Such federal government lethargy led to our South Carolina efforts to protect the electric power grid from the "bottom-up." I testified that we had begun working with Duke Energy and local South Carolina authorities to assess the vulnerability of the York County electric power grid and to estimate the cost to protect it to the same standards that protect our most important military systems against an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack.

Then-Chair of the Energy Committee, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), understood our concern and noted in her summary that "recognizing that this [threat] is complicated and multifaceted — truly daunting — and that we need to start out locally, ... [i]t is important that we in Congress be reminded of the urgency and imperative of our task and I think we were given that message this morning."

Indeed, it is an existential threat to all Americans, as EMP Commission testimony and reports have made clear.

Dr. George H. Baker, a key staffer on the EMP Commission, joined us in our South Carolina Lake Wylie Pilot Study. Duke Energy operates three power generation plants on Lake Wylie formed on the Catawba River that flows from North to South Carolina. Duke provides electricity to two local power companies that operate over 90% of the distribution grid supplying electricity to all York County citizens and businesses.

Dr. Baker led Defense Department efforts to assess the vulnerability of our strategic systems (our strategic ballistic missile systems, bombers, submarines and their associated command, control and communication systems) against EMP; assure their survival under a major EMP attack; and sustain their subsequent operations.

He applied that knowledge to assess the vulnerability of the York County Distribution Grid and estimate the costs to protect its most important components against EMP attack. By doing so, the grid would also be protected against "natural EMP" from a major "solar storm," or GMD, that could also cause major damage to the grid as discussed in my last message.

By mid-2019, Dr. Baker estimated that the essential components of the York County Distribution Grid could be protected for a one-time cost of less than $100 per York County resident — and minor annual funding to maintain that survivability. Since then, we have been waiting for "the powers that be" to provide funding to validate that estimate and develop a plan to extend lessons-learned throughout South Carolina and beyond.

The leaders of Rock Hill, South Carolina's fourth most populous city, and the rest of York County fully supported our assessment activity. They understand the need to protect their grid — and urge the "powers that be" to validate this $100-per-resident target cost. All key Rock Hill and York County leaders have expressed their support. Moreover, South Carolina's Adjutant General has supported this Pilot Study from the beginning.

Needed is about $30 million to prove this objective can be met by actually protecting the York County Distribution Grid and to provide a plan to extend the lessons-learned to other counties in South Carolina and beyond — especially via National Guard support. Emphasis would be to link these efforts with the ongoing Joint Base San Antonio Electromagnetic Defense Initiative (JBSA-EDI) and tie South Carolina's activities and lessons-learned to important activities working to protect both states' grid from the bottom up.

Hopefully, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., will retain his interest in protecting the electric power grid and assure that we don't simply descend into more studies. As he memorably stated in concluding his important February 17, 2019 hearing as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee:

"We have known about the existential threat posed by electromagnetic pulses and geomagnetic disturbances for decades ... It is way past time to stop admiring this problem, and actually begin to do something concrete to protect our vulnerable electrical grid, control systems, and the ever-increasing array of electronic devices our society has become dependent upon."

Notably, Johnson was much impressed by Dr. Baker's testimony — and instructed the other witnesses to address the priorities that Dr. Baker spelled out. But since then I've seen little evidence that the federal bureaucracy is doing anything except to continue studying the problem.

Subsequent to his York County assessment and testimony, Dr. Baker served on the National Security Council staff, working to execute the March 26, 2019 Executive Order 13865, written into law by Johnson's amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2020 — still the "law of the land."

The NDAA (2020) is supposed to guide the Executive Branch in addressing the existential threat posed by natural and manmade EMP effects on the nation's electric power grid.

Coupling that fact with the lesson from Texas could lead to an approach to deal with this existential threat. Evidence of such a change would be funding to protect the grid, as we now know is affordable. Validation of this claim by accelerating the test bed activities in South Carolina and Texas could easily be accomplished with a small portion from the S1.9 trillion so-called "American Rescue Plan."

Our South Carolina effort dealt with protecting the Distribution Grid, which makes up 90% of the nation's grid and 70% of the cost of the combined transmission and distribution lines. In responding to a question by Murkowski, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm observed in her confirmation hearing:

"We have 5 million miles of distribution lines, 200,000 miles of high-voltage (transmission) lines ... We have to harden our electric grid for protection of our energy system. [Emphasis added.] I hope this is a part of the infrastructure package that will be coming from the administration as well."

Me too! The Joint Base San Antonio effort involves a smaller area than York County but deals with both the local Bulk Power Grid (power generation plants and transmission lines) and Distribution Grid. Tying the South Carolina and Texas "pilot studies" together via National Guard operations could provide an exportable model for the entire nation.

More to come.

Ambassador Henry F. (Hank) Cooper, Chairman of High Frontier and an acknowledged expert on strategic and space national security issues, was President Ronald Reagan's Chief Negotiator at the Geneva Defense and Space Talks with the Soviet Union and Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) Director during the George H.W. Bush administration. Read Ambassador Cooper's Reports — More Here.

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Federal government lethargy led to our South Carolina efforts to protect the electric power grid from the "bottom-up."
powergrid, emp, electromagneticpulse
Tuesday, 23 March 2021 10:42 AM
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