Attacks on grid highlight irresponsible Biden energy policies

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BY J. Kennerly Davis:

Late on the night of December 3, saboteurs fired their guns into the heavy equipment at two separate unmanned electric system substations, both located in a rural area of central North Carolina. The combined attacks knocked out power to about 45,000 customers of Duke Energy, the utility company that provides electric service to the region.

Company crews were able to make some repairs onsite at the two substations, but they had to haul in replacement components for the significant amount of equipment that was destroyed in the attacks. Crews were not able to restore power fully until Wednesday following the attacks.

North Carolina Governor Cooper denounced the sabotage of “critical infrastructure,” calling it a “serious, intentional crime.” State and local authorities are working with the FBI to investigate, but no arrests have been made and no suspects have been identified. These North Carolina attacks are not isolated incidents. On November 11, saboteurs attacked another North Carolina substation, knocking out power to more than 12,000 customers of an electric cooperative.

According to federal law enforcement officials, such threats are increasing. Saboteurs recently launched physical attacks on substations in Oregon and Washington State. In those incidents, the attackers used hand tools, arson, and firearms to damage equipment, and threw metal chains onto equipment to trigger short-circuits.

And in February of this year, the Justice Department secured guilty pleas in a case involving three men charged with plotting to shoot up substations across the country with the aim of triggering widespread long-term blackouts and civil unrest.

The physical threats to our electric system are increasing at a time when the U.S. is running short of electric transformers, the critically important devices needed to regulate the voltage, or pressure, of electric power to keep it flowing smoothly from generation facilities across the network of transmission and distribution lines, through substations, and all the way to customers in their homes, offices, and factories.

Most transformers now in operation in the U.S. are near or past the end of the service life they were designed to provide. More and more are failing and, as they are replaced, we are fast depleting our supplies of spare transformers.

As a result of years of neglect, the U.S. lacks the materials, industrial production capacity, and skilled personnel to easily expand domestic production to meet the increasing demand for replacement transformers. Utilities are facing longer and longer lead times for replacements, sometimes over three years for the largest transformers needed at generation facilities and main substations. Even emergency orders can take more than six months to fill.

We have become dangerously dependent on a limited number of foreign suppliers for materials, components, and finished transformers. We import more than 80 percent of our largest transformers. Some of the suppliers we depend on are located in China and Russia. The implications for national security are as ominous as they are obvious.

In 1989, the electromagnetic pulse from a solar flare damaged transformers and caused power outages in Canada. In 2003, a solar flare damaged transformers and disrupted electric service in Sweden. Scientists have predicted that the electromagnetic pulse from a severe solar storm, comparable to the one that occurred in 1921, could result in a widespread blackout across the U.S. lasting many months.

And if the U.S. were struck by the electromagnetic pulse from the most severe solar storm recorded, one that occurred in 1859, or by the electromagnetic pulse created by the high altitude detonation of a nuclear weapon, scientists have predicted that it could takes years to replace the transformers needed to restore power across the U.S. Years!

Considering the serious threats facing our electric system, you would expect a responsible government to be working tirelessly to increase domestic transformer production and to be stockpiling the thousands of spares we will need for the worst emergencies.

Instead, the Biden administration is doing just the opposite, restricting supply and increasing demand. It has issued energy efficiency standards that increase the cost to produce transformers. And it is obsessively pursuing an irresponsible “green power” agenda that will, if implemented, triple the number of transformers needed to operate the nation’s electric grid!

If the worst occurs, we will surely suffer, but we cannot claim to be surprised.

J. Kennerly Davis is a former electric utility executive with more than 40 years of industry experience. He has also served as a Deputy Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Virginia. 

This article originally appeared at Real Clear Energy

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