As I watch Congress continue to debate raising the debt ceiling and negotiating potential infrastructure spending, I keep hoping to see some of our elected officials speak up for protecting our electric grid against existential threats, especially electromagnetic pulse (EMP).
Instead, the current debate is about building more infrastructure that depends on electricity than protecting sources of that electricity.
Meanwhile, the potential EMP threat, which is included in the military doctrine of Russia, China, North Korea and Iran as a potential cyberattack strategy, is growing day by day.
And the grid is also vulnerable to a “natural EMP” threat that will one day occur from a massive solar emission. We are overdue for such an event.
Moreover, legislation is needed to extend existing federal initiatives that focus on the Bulk Power Grid — power plants and high voltage transmission lines — to include the Distribution Grid that constitutes 90% of the overall grid and delivers electricity to Americans in their homes and businesses and their essential supporting infrastructure, e.g., hospitals, water-wastewater, communications, businesses, emergency management, etc.
"Infrastructure" funds should be appropriated to protect the nation’s entire electric power grid against manmade EMP, which we know is quite affordable based on the Lake Wylie Pilot Study conducted over the past five years in York County, South Carolina.
Duke Energy operates three power generation plants on Lake Wylie formed on the Catawba River that flows from North to South Carolina. Duke transmission lines provide electricity to two local power companies that operate over 90% of the Distribution Grid supplying electricity to almost all York County citizens and businesses.
In the Lake Wylie Pilot Study, Duke Engineers worked with York County engineers to understand the potential Distribution Grid vulnerabilities and assure needed loading conditions for Duke power plants — particularly its Catawba nuclear plant in York County.
Dr. George H. Baker, a key Congressional EMP Commission staffer and experienced expert on EMP matters, supported the Lake Wylie Pilot Study from its conception.
For many years, he had led 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—and to assure their survival from EMP attack and to sustain their subsequent operations
Dr. Baker subsequently served on the National Security Council Staff dealing with these issues and is now back in the private sector. Before joining the NSC, he assessed the York County Distribution Grid vulnerabilities and estimated costs to protect it from EMP attack, which would also protect it against a "natural EMP" event that will one day occur—only the time is uncertain.
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 there should be minor annual funding to maintain that survivability.
Needed from the “powers that be” is $30 million to validate that estimate by actually protecting York County’s Distribution Grid and provide a plan to extend lessons-learned to other counties in South Carolina and beyond.
Leaders of Rock Hill, South Carolina's fourth most populous city, and the rest of York County fully supported our assessment activity, as illustrated by a 5-minute video prepared by David Tice to be included in an upcoming documentary "Grid Down, No Second Choice."
It also illustrates support of South Carolina’s Adjutant General, who would be key in exporting the lessons-learned, including to link these efforts with the ongoing Joint Base San Antonio Electromagnetic Defense Initiative (JBSA-EDI).
The Lake Wylie Pilot Study is an important model for protecting the South Carolina grid, owned and managed by about 40 Municipal Power and Cooperative companies — and three companies that also involve bulk power grid components.
As key members of South Carolina’s Organization of Municipal Power Systems and the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, York County leaders could, and I believe would, take their lessons-learned throughout South Carolina — and support efforts to extend them beyond South Carolina.
But will the powers that be provide the $30 million to make it happen?
And once validated, a plan to provide about $33 billion over several years to protect the nation’s Distribution Grid?
And also to provide a plan to join forces with existing efforts that could protect the nation’s associated Bulk Power Grid?