Virginia’s power grid legislation makes some effort to address the security vulnerabilities; is this enough, or a model for the nation?

Recently (starting in October 2017), Dominion Energy in Virginia has run many ads, especially on CNN in local markets, about strengthening the power grid in Virginia for reliability.  And Dominion Energy has also indeed done some big time hardware maintenance. For example, it has replaced cables to some condominium and apartment buildings, warning consumers by direct letter rather than through building managements, with planned outages that last a few hours.

There is some controversy about the Virginia Grid Transformation and Security Act of 2018 (Bacon’s Rebellion explanation), which would provide the power companies with incentives to use more renewable energy sources, especially solar (despite Trump’s behavior), but more importantly encourage funding for infrastructure hardening against sabotage, including cyber attacks, and probably electromagnetic pulse or microwave (although the legislation doesn’t name that).  Again, some of the practical threats could include microwave flux devices and smaller nuclear weapons (which would produce an E1 threat to electronics) as well as large nuclear attacks or especially huge solar storms (which could produce the E3 cascading transformer burnouts).  There are modern ways utilities can ground transformers to make this possibility less likely. As I noted, in answer to my question at a town hall on January 15, 2018 in Alexandria, Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th district) confirmed that such efforts were happening.

Dominion also says that its initiatives will mean that over 1 million homes in Virginia will be powered by solar.

There is controversy over whether the bill allows Dominion to keep money owed to consumers.  For example, the Washington Post (Gregory Schneider) goes into the issue, and Bacon’s Rebellion goes into more detail. Very recently, Dominion Energy television spots have specifically supported the act.

There has been other controversy, such as a new transmission line near the I-66 interstate.

I would add that when I returned to northern Virginia in 2003 from Minnesota, I found outages more common than they had been in the 1990s.  The area was woefully unprepared for Hurricane Isabel.  In 2011, I purchased a generator for the estate house I had just inherited (and have recently sold). It came in handy for three days after the 2012 derecho.  But after that incident, power outages seemed to become less frequent.

Recently, I’ve also read somewhere that Virginia and Maine are the two best states right now for nailing down power grid security.

Much of the criticism from the Left concerns treatment of utility bills for low income consumers, taking for granted the infrastructure.  The Left is criticizing people for their personal habits, such as continuing to eat meat and dairy (a climate change contributor) and to insist on having the ability to drive long distances alone (meaning its’ hard to stop using fossil fuels completely).  The Right – especially the doomsday prepper crowd, makes personal dependence on technology a “singularity” among moral issues.

(Posted: Tuesday, February 6, 2018 at 12:30 PM EST)

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