PJM Interconnection to boost cybersecurity, storm hardening in latest plan

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Hardening the grid and becoming more resilient against possible future threats to the electricity system such as severe weather, hurricanes or cyberattacks will come about through developing a culture of resilience, said PJM Interconnection president and CEO Terry Boston.

He was joined by FERC Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur and former U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, who amplified the message at PJM's Grid 20/20: Focus on Resilience on November 11-12 in Philadelphia.

"There's no silver bullet to ensure resilience for the grid.  What we need is more like silver buckshot that encompasses multiple approaches," Boston said. "Resilience is a learning process, and it is best when we learn from others' handling of crises.

"At PJM, we take these new realities seriously, and we're working closely with government and industry to blunt threats wherever possible and to meet them with determination and resilience."

Former Pennsylvania Gov. and first Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge said that the challenges the industry faces are changed by the forever digital world.

"The strength of the Internet," Ridge said, "is its ubiquity and so is its weakness. The ability to use that digital world for good or for harm is something we will have to live with forever."

Ridge delivered the keynote address on November 12 amid three panels of experts in a fireside chat format discussing resilience from three perspectives: physical and cyber security, communication, and policy and investment. Panelists represented electric utilities, state regulators, federal energy agencies, leading trade groups, academia, regional regulatory agencies and private business.

FERC Commissioner LaFleur's remarks during the opening of the forum on November 11 stressed the importance of building a culture of resilience.

"We can build a culture of resilience using the same techniques and tools that industry has used for years to build a culture of safety," LaFleur said. She said creating a culture of resilience is akin to the acceptance travelers have of going to the airport two hours early and taking off shoes at security. She said people would have scoffed at that before the September 11 terrorist attacks but they understand the necessity now.

Boston said that in addition to creating a culture of resilience, PJM has partnered with experts in the defense industry and government to bring cutting-edge tools to the problem.

PJM conducts Grid 20/20 forums to share information and ideas about key topics in the electric power industry. This forum, which focused on resilience — largely in response to recent years of extreme weather affecting the grid as well as increased cyber threats — was the third in the series that began in 2011.

PJM Interconnection, founded in 1927, ensures the reliability of the high-voltage electric power system serving 61 million people in all or parts of Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

PJM coordinates and directs the operation of the region's transmission grid, which includes 62,556 miles of transmission lines; administers a competitive wholesale electricity market; and plans regional transmission expansion improvements to maintain grid reliability and relieve congestion.

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