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FERC proposes new electric reliability standards

By: Barbara Vergetis Lundin |

In order to ensure the continued reliability of the nation’s bulk power system, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has proposed new standards that will address the impacts of a geomagnetic disturbance.

GMDs result in distortions to the earth’s magnetic field and, although infrequent, can cause severe problems with grid reliability. FERC contends that current mandatory reliability standards do not adequately address these vulnerabilities.

“A poster child for a low frequency–high impact threat, GMD involves a judgment call that requires us to assess the likelihood of occurrence, how severe the impact could be, and the options to guard against that impact,” FERC Commissioner John R. Norris said in a statement. “Like a cyber attack, the potential size and duration of an outage that could result from a GMD demands that we take the precautions necessary to prevent, limit, or contain the potential impact.”

New standards would require grid owners and operators to conduct initial and continuing assessments of potential GMD impacts and implement protection strategies such as automatic blocking of geomagnetically induced currents, specification requirements for new equipment, inventory management, and isolation of equipment that is not cost effective.

“I know that the challenge of preparing our bulk electric system for geomagnetic disturbances is very complicated, and complicated challenges require complicated solutions,” said FERC Commissioner Cheryl A. LaFleur in a statement. “It is appropriate to tackle this challenge now because the U.S. is facing considerable investment in our transmission grid, driven by a change in power supply and replacement of aging infrastructure. We have a big opportunity to make sure the next generation of transmission equipment is built to withstand geomagnetic disturbances.”