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Is Protecting the Grid a Matter of National Security? Is Protecting the Grid a Matter of National Security?

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Energy Insiders

Is Protecting the Grid a Matter of National Security?

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

photo of Clare Foran
April 14, 2014

How much should protecting the electric grid weigh in considerations of national security?

A report from the Energy Department's internal watchdog, the Office of Inspector General, concluded this week that information on grid vulnerabilities leaked to The Wall Street Journal last month should have stayed under wraps. The IG's investigation also noted that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission may not have adequate safeguards in place to handle and protect classified information relating to the grid that could impact national security.

"This was a dangerous leak of highly sensitive information that should have been classified and closely guarded," Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee ranking member Lisa Murkowski said in a statement. "Unfortunately, it's now clear that under its previous leadership, FERC mishandled information that should have been classified. At best, a disclosure such as this has national security implications. At worst, it could endanger us all."

Is grid security the same as national security? Or has the threat been overblown? How damaging could an attack on the country's electric grid be and what kind of damage could it cause? Has the leak of classified information on grid vulnerabilities helped the situation by bringing grid instability into the spotlight so that it can receive the attention it deserves? Or has it put the nation at risk? What more can FERC and other agencies do to ensure the grid does not go down in the event of an attack?

From the Energy Insiders

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