Recent North Carolina power station attacks have led residents to ask their state legislators for better security measures and one state representative has already filed a bill.
Rep. Ben Moss (R-Moore, Richmond) filed HB 21: Energy Security Act of 2023 last week which will require public utilities to provide security systems for substations to protect against vandalism and other threats to the power grid, according to a news release from Moss's office.
The bill comes after three shooting attacks damaged three North Carolina utility facilities in the past two months.
"This is common-sense legislation that will help make our communities a better place to live, work and raise a family," Moss said. "We need to be proactive instead of reactive, and my bill, the Energy Security Act, is just the starting point for securing our power grid. It's not a partisan issue, whether you're a Democrat or Republican, it doesn't matter - when the energy goes out, everybody loses."
Jones-Onslow Electric Membership Corporation (JOEMC) was not directly impacted by the recent power attacks, but Vice President of Communications and Business Strategy Steve Goodson said it underscored that they must remain diligent in their efforts to prevent vandalism and intrusion in their power delivery system.
He added that securing and protecting the power grid is a top priority for JOEMC and all of North Carolina's electric cooperatives.
"Through technology, processes and procedures, JOEMC strives to provide the most safe and reliable electric service possible to its members," Goodson said in an email. "The co-op incorporates multiple layers of security across our system to monitor and protect critical infrastructure from natural and manmade threats. For security reasons, we can't speak about specific security measures that we have in place or additional measures that we are currently exploring."
JOEMC has more than 30 substations that distribute electricity to over 80,000 homes and businesses in Jones, Onslow, Pender, Duplin, Lenoir and Craven counties, Goodson said, adding these substations are located throughout the co-op's six-county service area and can be identified with JOEMC signage.
If any of JOEMC's substations lost power, Goodson said the co-op would respond by dispatching crews to assess the situation and define the cause of the outage. If they determined that it was an act of vandalism, JOEMC would notify law enforcement officials.
"Crews would determine the best method of power restoration for members who are served by the affected substation," Goodson said. "The goal is to restore electric service as safely and quickly as possible."
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If a power station attack were to happen to JOEMC customers, Goodson said there could be a financial impact to them. This is because customers are also member-owners of this not-for-profit electric cooperative.
Because of this, in addition to the inconvenience of losing power due to an act of vandalism, members could potentially bear the burden of the cost of repairing and replacing damaged equipment, Goodson said.
"It is vitally important that members be aware of their surroundings and report any suspicious activity around substations and power lines to law enforcement or to us — they can help prevent problems from ever occurring," Goodson said.
Goodson added that staying ahead of security challenges requires a collaborative effort, and that's why JOEMC works with industry partners, peer organizations, government agencies and local officials to not only learn from one another, but to share information and strengthen systems.
"JOEMC continuously monitors, evaluates and prepares for threats to the grid and other critical infrastructure," Goodson said. "We remain committed to incorporating new findings into our procedures and plans to strengthen the grid, enhance security and improve system resiliency — the ability to quickly find solutions and deliver continuous electric service."
Goodson added that JOEMC and electric cooperatives across the state are applying innovative technologies to improve grid resilience and reliability to consumer-members.
These include 13 solar and storage sites, 10 utility-scale battery energy storage projects and five microgrids that are designed to enhance grid resilience and reliability in rural North Carolina communities.
Reporter Morgan Starling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.