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Fuel Security and Critical Infrastructure Protection

What is It?

Fuel security is a vital component to a reliable and resilient energy landscape. Where reliability is the ability to deliver energy consistently and uninterrupted, resilience is the ability to withstand major disruptions in fuel supply and energy delivery including the ability to recover quickly after a disruption. Fuel security is a part of resilience, as fuel security is about the risks and potential disruptions in the energy landscape.

For grid operators such as Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs), utilities, and REMCs, resilience is about as managing the risk of high-impact disruptions, which can happen simultaneously or persist over a period of time. No matter what is the cause of the disruption, grid operators must plan for these events, be capable of operating through them, and be able to recover as quickly as possible.

In other words, fuel security must include:

  • Ample supply of energy resources
  • Ability to access and dispatch supply
  • Ability to generate and transmit energy to end users
  • Protection controls at all levels

Why Does It Matter?

Indiana has a very reliable electrical grid, so it might be easy to take this energy reliability for granted. Grid operators and oversight agencies are committed to ensuring the reliability is maintained so that one does not ever have to experience more than a minor outage caused by a storm. Energy is necessary in all aspects from operating our homes, businesses, schools, hospitals, and water facilities, to transportation of people and goods. It is easy to see why energy is a critical asset because it is essential to the way of life, economic vitality, public health and safety, and the nation’s security. Indiana’s energy must remain reliable, and fuel security is a component to that.

The energy landscape has gone through many changes in recent years and it will continue to face more. The ability to respond to these changes and possible disruptions can affect energy reliability. A changing fuel mix, stressed fuel delivery systems, extreme weather, cyber-attacks, and other physical security threats are all examples of challenges to fuel security and thus resiliency of the system. The need to ensure that all components of the electrical grid and fuels are secure and resilient is more important now than ever.

How Do You Ensure Fuel Security and Protection?

Ensuring infrastructure protection involves coordination with many stakeholders, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the North American Reliability Corporation (NERC). Check out https://www.dhs.gov/topic/critical-infrastructure-security and www.nerc.com for more information. It starts with risk management and planning for potential disruptions. A security management approach has objectives such as: risk identification and management strategy, protection of physical and cyber systems, monitoring and detection of events, rapid response with well-defined plans, and contingency plans to recover quickly and minimize impact. Frequent training is also a crucial component to risk management and planning.

One of the most common risks to fuel security is weather. Severe weather events like storms often cause shorter, more isolated, and anticipated disruptions to energy delivery in which restoration can be completed within the control of the utility. Some events though may cause larger system and unplanned outages that need to be coordinated with an RTO to ensure energy deliver and minimize impacts of disruptions.

Weather also highlights how risk management plans need to be scalable and flexible to meet specific conditions. For instance, a diverse fuel mix is important for high energy demands during summer and winter. However, it is challenging for wind to be able to provide continuous energy during extended summer heat waves, or during times of extreme icing such as during a polar vortex in the winter.

Utilities and RTOs alike prepare for extreme conditions, but unplanned natural or manmade outages can happen and may require additional actions. Emergency operating procedures enable grid operators to prepare for and regularly train for events that have the potential to threaten system reliability. Large-scale restoration of electricity does not happen all at once, but rather restoration happens step-by-step in order to ensure the system is stable to handle more load. Location of the available fuel sources are also a critical component to ensuring system resilience and security.

Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP)

Energy is one of 16 sectors defined as a Critical Infrastructure and Key Resource (CIKR) and identified for Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP). CIKR is an umbrella term referring to assets essential to the nation’s security, public health and safety, economic vitality, and way of life. Energy is also uniquely critical because it is essential across all the other CIKR sectors. That is, each CIKR sector relies upon the energy sector in order to function.

The vast majority of energy infrastructure is owned by the private sector to serve the public, highlighting the integral need for collaboration. Security and protection for CIKRs requires the partnership and coordination of numerous agencies and organizations, both public and private. Besides Indiana’s utilities and REMCs, some of the key partners include: