The PG&E Metcalf substation has been getting a lot of attention for an event that occurred nearly 10 months ago. Several media outlets have recently reported details about an April 2013 attack at the Metcalf substation where two manholes were entered and fiber cables cut, eliminating some 911 services, landline service to the substation and cell phone service. Shortly after 1 a.m., more than 100 rounds were fired at several transformers in the substation, causing cooling oil to leak and the transformers to overheat and shut down. To date, those responsible have not been found. PG&E is addressing the matter as explained in this video.
It appears that, in reaction to current media reports, Senators Wyden, Feinstein, Reid and Franken wrote a letter requesting that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) determine whether additional minimum standards regarding physical security at critical substations and other essential facilities are needed to assure the reliable operation of the bulk power system. Just yesterday, statements were issued by Commissioners Norris and Moeller. A detailed response by Acting Chairman LaFleur explains the landscape and that FERC will work with NERC to determine whether a mandatory reliability standard under section 215 of the Federal Power Act is needed to protect against physical attacks on our electrical infrastructure. This quote by Commissioner Norris provides grounding and a reminder that the risk is nothing new:
We have over 400,000 circuit miles of transmission in North America and 55,000 transmission substations. The vulnerability of our grid infrastructure to physical attack is a decades-old reality.