Many have tried to warn authorities of the fragility of of the electric grid’s substations including Herschel Smith and myself. Now someone in California seems to have taken it upon themselves to prove the theory, and then some:
California energy officials urged people in the South Bay to cut back on power use Tuesday after a PG&E substation was damaged by vandals overnight.
The California Independent System Operator issued a Flex Alert for Tuesday, asking Santa Clara County and Silicon Valley utility customers to cut down their electricity use until midnight, including by lowering lighting, turning off thermostats and powering down unnecessary appliances.
Vandals appeared to have shot up a bank of transformers at a PG&E transmission center just southeast of San Jose, a PG&E spokesman said. Crews were working to clean up an oil spill caused by bullet holes.
Could it have been vandals? That is a possibility. But this doesn’t seem like the kind of behavior I’d expect from random thugs, shooting over or through a fence. Instead, the facility’s perimeter fencing was breached and then key transformers apparently came under fire from inside the facility. The “vandals” also hit a secondary target:
The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department said there was a breach of the security fence at approximately 3:25 a.m., and five transformers at the substation were vandalized by the gunfire.
Meanwhile, AT&T has now also blamed a large telephone outage in southern Santa Clara County Tuesday morning on vandalism.
Cell phones and landlines were said to be impacted by apparent damage to a fiber optic line. That line, which runs relatively close to PG&E’s substation, was believed to have been cut.
A few bullets at a substation from beyond the wire is what I would consider vandalism. This was an attack on the electric grid and key communications lines, apparently by the same person or persons, and they seem to have gotten away clean.
The video at the link says the FBI is investigating.
If the people who carried out this first attack replicate their successful attacks—perhaps during a hot spell when the electrical grid are already under load with little or no reserve, and hit multiple targets—then they could bring a city or region to its knees, threatening civility itself.