The Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board (SEAB) held its second meeting on January 25th and offered a broad perspective of Department of Energy (DOE) programs. Secretary Jennifer Granholm attended the entire meeting and commented freely, notably including support for matters of interest to those seeking funds for “state and local” efforts to protect the electric power grid.
Her comments suggested support for protecting the Distribution Grid of the nation, hopefully to support innovative efforts in York County, South Carolina — that I have often noted, e.g., on October 7, 2021, would demonstrate a “bottom-up” affordable approach to protect the Distribution Grid that delivers electricity to all Americans at home and where they work — as well as their essential critical civil infrastructure, e.g., water-wastewater facilities, hospitals, emergency managers, National Guard, etc.
While she did not emphasize the Distribution Grid last week, her confirmation hearing made clear that she then understood its critical importance and that it composes over 90% of the nation’s overall grid as reported in my January 29, 2021 Newsmax article. In her response to a cybersecurity question from Alaska’s Sen. Lisa Murkowski, then Michigan Gov. Granholm, volunteered that she well understands the Distribution Grid’s importance:
“... We have 5-million miles of distribution wires, 200,000 miles of high-voltage electric wires. I haven’t been fully briefed on the national security, and the confidential aspects of the SolarWinds cyber hack, but clearly that’s one example and we are getting hacked all the time and attacked all the time. We will have, inside the DOE, a person at a very high level that is responsible for making sure the response to this is coordinated. We have to harden our electric grid for protection of our energy system. I hope that this is a part of the infrastructure package that will be coming from the administration as well.” (Emphasis added)
It is pertinent that her response was in the context of Sen. Murkowski’s question regarding cybersecurity, because (according to the Congressional EMP Commission) EMP is included as the most horrific cyber threat in the military doctrine of Russia, China, North Korea and Iran.
With this background and Secretary Granholm’s clearly stated acknowledgement of the extent and importance of the Distribution Grid — and the repeatedly stated interest in supporting state and local initiatives, there clearly should be sufficient flexibility in the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Public Law 117-58) for the legislative “powers that be” to find $35-million to:
The planning process could begin immediately and would involve the National Guard and its important role throughout the United States — beginning especially with establishing a link between the 263rd Army Air and Missile Defense Command (AAMDC) in Anderson, S.C. and its direct report links to First Air Force in Panama City, Florida; Army North on Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, and (along with both-of-them) to Northern Command (NORTHCOM) in Colorado Springs, Colorado — which has an overall responsibility of protecting the United States.
Notably, the link to Ft. Sam Houston would enable a tie to the important Joint Base San Antonio Electromagnetic Defense Initiative that is making significant progress in protecting the San Antonio grid — an opportunity for bridging lessons learned across the nation.
South Carolina’s Adjutant General supports this plan, as described many times over the past several years. For example, see my July 22, 2021 Newsmax article.
That message, among others before and since, also includes an additional initiative that DOE should fund to protect the overall grid — via the large transformers that, beginning at power plants throughout the nation, step-up the voltage for long-range transmission lines and then step it down into the Distribution Grid for delivery to all Americans and their critical civil infrastructure.
Duke Energy, one of the nation’s largest electric power companies, operates hydroelectric, nuclear, and coal plants on Lake Wylie and has been a Lake Wylie Pilot Study partner from its inception, as I testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on May 4, 2017.
Duke operates those power plants and associated high voltage transmission lines to support York County and other Distribution Grid operations. The Rock Hill Utility and York County Cooperative companies own and operate over 90% of the York County’s Distribution Grid.
As noted in numerous Newsmax articles, all York County key players stand ready to support protecting their Distribution Grid, pending needed funding.
One more important thing for Secretary Granholm to support: Full scale testing at the Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) of a multimillion-dollar transformer donated by Duke Energy as mentioned above.
In cooperation with Clemson University, it was shipped five ago to the Clemson University Restoration Institute (CURI) in North Charleston, S.C. — and subsequently has been awaiting DOE funding to ship it up the Savannah River and to test it in conjunction with SRNL’s major grid network over its 350-square-mile site — a legacy of its five operational nuclear reactors beginning in the 1950s.
I understand no other site in the nation has a comparable range of potential full-scale testing, which could also include ties to cyber security matters. Note: Army Cyber Command Headquarters in on Ft. Gordon in nearby Augusta, Ga.
Over to you, Madam Secretary.