DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery & Energy Reliability (OE) has long focused on research, preparedness, response, and recovery activities related to potential threats to the nation’s critical energy infrastructure from severe weather, cyber, and physical attacks, and electromagnetic pulses.   We are committed to working with our interagency partners (e.g., NASA, DHS, DOD, USGS, FEMA) to advance science on impacts, protection strategies, and mitigation solutions.  We have invested time and research dollars to better understand the potential impact and risks associated with high-impact, low-frequency, or HILF, events such as electromagnetic pulses (EMPs).

EMPs can be caused by a high-altitude detonation of a nuclear device. This type of HILF event has the potential to destabilize the nation’s power grid and damage equipment such as large power transformers which are critical to the nation’s power grid. While the likelihood is low, DOE is dedicated to understanding the risks and working with our government and industry partners to develop cost-effective strategies to mitigate, respond to, and recover from potential disruptions. As such, we have engaged in a series of activities:

  • DOE is collaborating with DHS to have Los Alamos National Laboratory research and advance the understanding of EMP effects on electricity.
  • DOE directed the Idaho National Laboratory to develop potential strategies, protections, and mitigations for the electric grid from an EMP. The study was released in January 2016 and can be found here.
  • The Department is analyzing the vulnerability of the grid to an EMP event and the potential impact on reliability and delivery of electric power. The analysis will examine options such as hardening, blocking, stockpiles, and planning.

Today, I am pleased to announce the latest example of DOE’s progress in this endeavor: the release of a Joint Electromagnetic Pulse Resilience Strategy (Joint Strategy) in collaboration with Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). 

The Joint Strategy enhances coordination and shapes future efforts to help meet the growing demands for EMP guidance. The Joint Strategy aims to: 1) improve and share understanding of EMP threats, effects, and impacts; 2) identify priority infrastructure; 3) test and promote mitigation and protection approaches; 4) enhance response and recovery capabilities to an EMP attack and; 5) share best practices across government and industry, nationally and internationally.  

As a next step, DOE will be working closely with EPRI, interagency partners, national laboratories, electric utilities, and international partners to develop specific actions that DOE can take to reduce EMP vulnerabilities to the energy sector. These actions will be developed by September 30, 2016, and will help guide the Nation’s efforts in the future.

By collaborating with our partners to advance readiness for potential EMP impacts through research to quantify the threat, scientific development of mitigation strategies, and analysis of the policies needed for the future we are – together – increasing our ability to mitigate, respond to, and recover from potential disruptions. In the face of diverse threats from natural and manmade events, strong partnerships with public and private stakeholders will continue to play a vital role in making the electric grid more secure and poised to recover quickly following an incident.

DOE is committed to ensuring a resilient, reliable, and flexible electric grid in an increasingly challenging environment. 

Patricia A. Hoffman
Acting Assistant Secretary, Office of Electricity
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