In December 2012, a report released by the Director of National Intelligence discussed the potential threat of solar geomagnetic storms to the nation’s electric grid. These storms are caused by bursts of energy produced by the sun that disrupts the Earth’s magnetic field. While this may sound like science fiction to some, in 1989, a Canadian blackout affecting 9 million people was caused by currents produced by a large geomagnetic storm.
Now Maine is moving to become the first state to take deliberate action to assess and manage these risks. Legislation which became law earlier this year directs the state Public Utilities Commission to examine related vulnerabilities, identify the most vulnerable components and develop recommendations, including cost/benefit analyses to be delivered to the legislature in January 2014.
The law’s legislative sponsor, State Representative Andrea Boland, had originally sought additional steps, but faced “strong opposition from electric utilities.”
Meanwhile in May, a final rule approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission directed the North American Reliability Corporation to develop new reliability standards to mitigate the effects of geomagnetic disturbances within six months.