NERC releases two reports on high-impact, low-frequency risks

WASHINGTON, DC – The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) released two technical reports recently as part of its Critical Infrastructure Strategic Roadmap to address high-impact, low-frequency events that have the potential to affect the reliability of the North American bulk power system.

The two reports address cyber attack incidents and severe impact resilience, and provide guidance to the industry on enhancing and protecting the grid against debilitating events.

“While NERC and the industry have been actively addressing critical infrastructure issues for many years, these reports help address particularly severe events with the potential to impact large portions of the grid and disrupt service to customers for an extended period of time,” said Gerry Cauley, president and chief executive officer at NERC. “Increasing our understanding of these events allows us to put necessary and appropriate solutions in place that better ensure the reliability of the bulk power system.

The Cyber Attack Task Force report provides guidance to prevent, deter, detect and respond to a coordinated cyber attack. The report describes aspects of cybersecurity that could be challenged through a sophisticated cyber attack and provides options to protect the assets, systems and networks critical to the reliable operation of the bulk power system. 

The Severe Impact Resilience: Considerations and Recommendations report provides guidance to asset owners and operators on enhancing the resilience of the bulk power system to potentially catastrophic events, such as coordinated physical or cyber attacks or a severe geomagnetic disturbance. The report describes the concept of a “new normal,” where the bulk power system is restored and operated at a reduced state of reliability for months or possibly years. 

A complement of reports was developed in response to recommendations from a June 2010 joint NERC and Department of Energy report – High-Impact, Low-Frequency Event Risk to the North American Bulk Power System. The HILF report focused on a class of rare risks to the bulk power system that were identified as part of NERC and the Electricity Sub-Sector Coordinating Council (ESCC) roadmap for addressing these types of events. The HILF report found that the best approach to these events would be through an organized combination of industry-led task forces and NERC staff initiatives.The ESCC, which is chaired by Cauley, is made up of electricity industry chief executive officers from across North America.

The ESCC fosters sector-wide initiatives to improve the reliability and resilience of the electricity sector, including physical and cybersecurity infrastructure.

Other task force reports developed in response to the roadmap include the Spare Equipment Database report and the 2012 Special Reliability Assessment: Effects of Geomagnetic Disturbances on the Bulk Power System report.