U.S. President Donald Trump issued an executive order (EO) on Friday declaring a national emergency, citing threats to the U.S. power system.
Trump’s order finds that “foreign adversaries are increasingly creating and exploiting vulnerabilities in the United States bulk-power system,” and, “It is imperative our bulk-power system remains secure from exploitation and foreign threats.”
The order bans the “acquisition, importation, transfer, or installation” of generation and transmission gear designed, built or supplied by any firm subject to the jurisdiction of a “foreign adversary.”
According to a note from Norton Rose Fulbright, the order is “broadly written and would rule out not only buying such equipment, but also transferring any projects that use it,” declaring that the order “leaves more questions than it answers.”
Long list of banned gear
Trump ordered that the Secretary of Energy consult with other secretaries and agencies to identify bulk-power electric equipment “designed, developed, manufactured, or supplied” by a “foreign adversary” which “poses an undue risk of sabotage to or subversion” of the bulk-power system in the U.S.
The EO defines a “bulk-power system” as:
- Facilities and control systems necessary for operating an interconnected electric energy transmission network, and transmission lines rated at 69 kV or more — but not local distribution facilities
“Bulk-power system electric equipment” refers to:
- Substations, control rooms, or power generating stations, including reactors, capacitors, substation transformers, current coupling capacitors, large generators, backup generators, substation voltage regulators, shunt capacitor equipment, automatic circuit reclosers, instrument transformers, coupling capacity voltage transformers, protective relaying, metering equipment, high voltage circuit breakers, generation turbines, industrial control systems, distributed control systems, and safety instrumented systems.
More questions than answers
According to Norton Rose Fulbright, there are a number of issues that need clarification.
- “Who are the foreign adversaries? The order seems directed at China. Russia, North Korea and Iran are not large suppliers of equipment for the U.S. power sector.” Why is this happening now? Is it in response to a particular incident? A particular company?
- “Which power projects are affected? It arguably does not apply to equipment for wind and solar projects” The EO does not mention solar panels or batteries.
- “The order does not seem to apply to distributed energy or distribution system equipment.” The EO does not mention energy storage.
- How does the ban work in practice?
Although solar panels and batteries are not singled out, how does prohibiting products from certain vendors impact solar and storage project interconnection?
In response to the EO, Dan Brouillette, Secretary of Energy, tweeted, “It is imperative our bulk-power system remains secure from exploitation and foreign threats. This Executive Order will lessen the ability of foreign adversaries to target our electrical grid.”
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Given the propensity of an enemy to double down when its target has been weakened, it is not surprising that the government is looking at a potential secondary wave of disruption. While the world at large is focused on a covid19 re-emergence by the fall, a potential enemy may be looking to strike in a different place. A much more devastating black swan: energy. This EO makes a lot of sense to me. If you really want to hurt America you don’t need a dirty bomb. Hurting the consumer, in a way, is much more efficient and has vastly more negative consequences.
I can’t wait for enphase to release their off-grid IQ8s. They should become the norm and Federal standard for all residential solar.
About 15 years ago a new item of a “very large” power plant transformer, gained the news cycle for a few days. It seems this transformer a replacement for one on the Palo Verde Nuclear plant in Arizona, was so large, there wasn’t a facility in the U.S.. It had to be manufactured in Italy it took six months, shipped to Long Beach and on a special low boy, was transported over several days at no more than 25 miles per hour. The trip was from midnight to the maximum 6 AM, then parked until the next night. Imagine a hard attack on such generation facilities output transformers and what it would take to get the power supply back online again. Taking GW of generation capability off line for weeks is a scary contemplation, how about GW of generation off line for (months). Time for distributed large scale energy storage facilities and more local micro-grids need to be installed t help harden the grid infrastructure.
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