Infrastructure Bill Still Leaves Grid Vulnerable

My July 28, 2021 Newsmax article emphasized that bureaucratic, lethargic Washington, D.C. still doesn’t "get it" on the Electric Power Grid.

The recent rollout of the 2700-page Infrastructure Bill didn’t improve that assessment.

Furthermore, an Aug. 7-8 editorial in The Wall Street Journal declared "So Much for 'Fully Paid For'" - re: a claim from U.S. senators who charted this $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Bill to be taken up by the full U.S. Senate this week.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), as well as others, as reported by Sunday talk shows, indicate it includes a several-hundred-billion-dollar shortfall.

Continuing U.S. Senate and House negotiations promise even more deficit spending, while claims of "bipartisanship" allege that "Washington works."

Then, Politico reported Sunday evening that the Infrastructure Bill is "on cruise control to Senate Passage." (See also, this AP story.)

While including things that aren’t traditional infrastructure, these negotiations have left out essential traditional infrastructure — e.g., the electric power grid.

Someone observed the Infrastructure Bill will "decarbonize" the grid — suggesting it's a component of the Green New Deal with major funding for solar and wind power — and transmission lines to connect these "green energy colonies" to the nationwide electric grid.

Knowledgeable experts say this will add to our dependence on electricity and the grid’s vulnerability.

Whatever the reported Bill adds to the resilience of our "bulk power grid" (composed of power plants and high voltage powerlines) I have found no evidence that it will protect the distribution grid that receives electricity from thousands of large "step-down" transformers to support Americans where they live and work — their homes, businesses, hospitals, emergency managers, water-wastewater, etc.Even larger transformers "step up" the voltage of electricity from power plants to the levels carried on those high voltage transmission lines.

And we purchase most of these essential difficult to replace transformers from abroad —including hundreds from China.

I mentioned these issues in my last week’s article (linked above) and its links to my related Newsmax articles of July 16, 2021 and July 22, 2021. These large transformers have never been tested to assure their survivability from electromagnetic pulse (EMP), which is the most catastrophic cyberattack component of the military doctrine of Russia, China, North Korea and Iran — as emphasized by the Congressional EMP Commission.

That we have not assured the viability of the distribution grid is alarming — and, so far as I can tell, the current Infrastructure Bill does not include efforts to change that situation.

At least the high voltage transmission lines are mentioned in the 2700-page Infrastructure Bill — but I have not identified any useful reference to protecting the distribution grid or the untested essential transformers.

Washington’s long-standing reluctance to address such difficulties led me to advocate the Lake Wylie Pilot Study over five years ago.

That effort is supported by South Carolina’s adjutant general; the deputy city manager (an electrical engineer) of Rock Hill — South Carolina’s fourth largest city and a suburb of Charlotte, North Carolina and home of the corporate headquarters of Duke Energy (one of the nation’s largest energy companies); leaders of the Rock Hill Municipal Utility Company and the York County Cooperative Company as well as key elected officials of York County, and all key emergency managers of Rock Hill and York County, South Carolina.

Duke was interested in protecting its three power plants on Lake Wylie on the Catawba River that flows from North to South Carolina (as well as other locations especially around the Southeastern U.S.) and to interact with the Rock Hill Municipal Utility and York Electric Cooperative companies that own and manage almost all of the distribution grid that supports all York County citizens, businesses, medical and emergency managers, essential communications, etc.

An immediate benefit was to assure that the York County distribution grid would be included in the loading conditions to assure the viable operations of Duke’s York County Catawba Nuclear Power Plant and Wylie Hydroelectric Plant and its Allen Coal Power Plant in Gaston County, North Carolina.

Illustrative of Duke’s commitment to this effort, which benefits both South and North Carolina, was that Duke Energy gave a large transformer worth over a million dollars to Clemson University and the Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) for testing up to fullscale EMP environments and cyberattack threats.

As covered in my July 22 column it has been sitting idle for over two years in North Charleston, South Carolina at the Clemson University Restoration Institute (CURI), waiting for needed funding to ship it up the Savannah River to SRNL for testing.

So far, the Department of Energy (DoE) has not supported the SRNL proposals that were first presented several years ago. And I found no portion in the Infrastructure Bill to suggest it will now be covered.

The Lake Wylie Pilot Study’s most important product thus far was accomplishing — over two years ago — a detailed survivability assessment of the York County distribution grid and estimates of the cost of protecting the York County distribution grid to the same standards as the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) uses to protect our most important military systems — determined to be less than $100 per York County citizen — one time cost. Limited additional annual funding would be required for independent survivability assessments to assure this protection is maintained.

This assessment (which demonstrates that the challenges for protecting the grid are not financial, they are bureaucratic and management challenges) was accomplished by Dr. George Baker before he joined the National Security Council Staff in leading efforts there to plan and execute key programs responding to the March 26, 2019 Executive Order 13865, which was strengthened and included in the Dec. 20, 2019 National Defense Authorization Act for 2020 that is still the "law of the land."

Dr. Baker previously led (DoD) assessments of our most important military systems and oversaw programs to assure their survivability is maintained.

His assessment still needs to be validated by actually protecting the York County distribution grid to validate this cost estimate and preparing a plan to extend the lessons-learned throughout South and North Carolina and beyond.

That plan would include charging the National Guard with an important role, including links to the Joint Base San Antonio Pilot Study.

That York County and National Guard key officials want to accomplish this objective is demonstrated in the linked video. About $20 million is needed to harden the York County distribution grid and another $10-15 million to plan how best to take lessons-learned throughout South Carolina and beyond. “Peanuts” in the context of the funding debate in Washington.

We await action from Washington — hopefully to reverse its previous "bipartisan failure."

Stand by . . .