Cyberattack Knocks Out Carolinas only Gas Pipeline. Is our Power Grid the Next Target?

Late last week, terrorists launched a cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline, shutting off the Carolinas’ main source of gasoline.

The company and the federal government are working overtime to get the region’s only gasoline pipeline back in service but news reports indicate the earliest possible service restoration date is this coming Friday

Meanwhile, the gas stations across the Carolinas that still have fuel are reporting long lines.

The cyberattack on the only pipeline that supplies the East Coast with gasoline ought to be a wakeup call for the havoc a similar attack on our power grid would create.

For years, think tanks and energy industry experts pointed out weaknesses in the United States’ power grid.  Report after report warned that the “American Power Grid is Vulnerable” because of a lack of investment and a failure to modernize basic infrastructure and equipment and build protections against cyberattacks and terrorists.    

This lack of investment in the power grid leaves our electricity delivery system vulnerable to catastrophic failure like California and Texas recently experienced, or the same type of terrorist cyberattack that took down the Colonial Pipeline.

And if you think going a week without being able to put gas in your car is bad, think about going a week without electricity.

In the Carolinas it is very difficult for utilities to plan and make the long-term investments needed to protect and harden our power grid.  It is time for legislators to adopt multi-year rate planning that allows public utilities to make the big, long-term investments needed to protect our power grid from cyberattacks.  

Importantly, US Department of Energy research shows multi-year rate plans not only encourages public utilities to invest in grid modernization – multi-year rate plans create cost savings between 3 percent and 10 percent for electricity customers

We can’t afford to have legislators wait any longer to protect and strengthen our power grid.