Physical attacks on the U.S. power grid rose 71% last year compared with 2021 and will likely increase this year, according to a confidential industry analysis viewed by The Wall Street Journal. A division of the grid oversight body known as the North American Electric Reliability Corporation found that ballistic damage, intrusion and vandalism largely drove the increase. The analysis also determined that physical security incidents involving power outages have increased 20% since 2020, attributed to people frustrated by the onset of the pandemic, social tensions and economic challenges.
The NERC division, known as the Electricity Information Sharing and Analysis Center, or E-ISAC, recorded the sharp increase in incidents in 2022, driven in part by a series of clustered attacks on infrastructure in the Southeast, Midwest and Pacific Northwest. One of the most significant incidents occurred in early December 2022 when attackers targeted several substations in North Carolina with gunfire, leaving roughly 45,000 people in the dark…The number of politically or ideologically motivated attacks appears to be growing though it is difficult to identify the reasons for each one. There seems to be a pattern where people are targeting critical infrastructure, probably with the intent to disrupt. In 2013, snipers targeted a large-scale transmission substation near San Jose, Calif., and raised fears that the country’s power grid was vulnerable to terrorism. The attack took out 17 transformers critical to supplying power to Silicon Valley, authorities said. A former federal regulator at the time called the event “the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the grid that has ever occurred.”
Excerpts from Katherine Blunt, Power-Grid Attacks Surge and Are Likely to Continue, Study Finds, WSJ, Feb. 22, 2023