US energy secretary: Power grid ready for storms, threats
Tropical Storm Cristobal crashed through the Gulf Coast earlier this week, and with the 2020 hurricane season having just started — and predicted to be above average — we can be certain that other storms are on the way, storms which may take more direct aim at Florida. As a consequence, we must take prudent steps to prepare for disruptions that threaten the entire state, as Hurricane Irma did in 2017.
Floridians know the risks all too well. And while we cannot control the wrath of wind and wave, we can prepare for inevitable power disruptions by taking prudent steps to ensure our grid is ready, reliable, resilient and secure.
We also need to be prepared for another kind of storm — this one manmade — as new cyber threats and attacks against our energy infrastructure pose a very real danger.
These “cyberstorms” have the potential to be just as disruptive as a hurricane, tearing into our bulk power system (our grid, along with its transmission resources and control systems) and upending essential services such as firefighters and emergency responders — to say nothing of businesses and families — that depend on an uninterrupted supply of power.
Anyone who has been through a blackout understands what that means — not just a light switch that does not come on or a refrigerator that refuses to cool, but a sudden sense of insecurity.
According to the 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment by the U.S. intelligence community, China, Russia, and Iran all have the ability to execute cyberattacks against America’s critical infrastructure, including the bulk power system. In fact, adversaries have penetrated such networks in the past.
In response, President Donald Trump recently took two important steps to mitigate against those threats: the first to secure the bulk-power system, and the second to ensure that the system has a resilient and reliable supply of power.
Last month, the president signed an executive order to secure America’s bulkpower system against malicious attacks. This order authorizes my team at the Department of Energy to work with federal agencies and our private-sector partners, as appropriate, to enhance our security by eliminating vulnerabilities.
Under the executive order, we will prohibit the future use of bulk-power system equipment that would pose an undue risk to our national security. We will also identify and make recommendations to remediate existing equipment on the bulkpower
RATES system that poses a threat. This presents an opportunity for American manufacturers to fill the void left by banned components.
In addition to taking steps to secure our bulk-power system, we also recently released a strategy to ensure that nuclear energy continues to provide reliable power to Americans.
Nuclear power provides nearly onethird of the world’s clean energy and almost 60% of our clean energy in the
United States — along with 20% of our total power generation — making it the largest source of clean energy in our country.
The U.S. nuclear industry also directly employs nearly 100,000 people. Some 700 of those work at the Turkey Point facility in Miami-Dade County, which pays approximately $80 million annually in salaries and provides emissions-free energy for more than 900,000 homes.
Last December, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission extended the plant’s license so it can continue to provide power to Floridians for decades to come. This was the first time in the United States that the commission had renewed a license extending reactor operations from 60 to 80 years.
Our new “Strategy to Restore American Nuclear Energy” seeks to have a similar effect nationally, renewing America’s leadership in nuclear energy and ensuring our citizens will be able to depend on reliable power for decades to come.
Specifically, the strategy aims to ensure a healthy and growing nuclear energy sector in America and expand U.S. nuclear technology exports, by growing the market into which domestic uranium miners, fuel-cycle providers, and reactor vendors can sell their products and services.
We have already seen the critical importance of preparing against national threats locally.
Despite the Category 4 fury of Irma when it impacted Florida in 2017, power in the southern portion of the state was restored at a pace of roughly four times faster than when Hurricane Wilma swept across that same region in 2005.
One reason was the massive mutual assistance that electric utilities provided to one another. Crews came from all across the country to aid the restoration. Another reason for this success was the billions in investments that companies like Florida Power and Light made in hardening the grid.
What we as Americans did to counter Irma, we can do again. We can strengthen our power system against all threats to come, and we will do so with prudence and determination.