CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Federal data show not only are targeted attacks against the electric grid more common than people might think, efforts to physically attack, sabotage and vandalize hit a 10-year high in the United States in 2022
The data, which runs through August, does not include the recent attacks on two Duke Energy substations in Moore County. Law enforcement officials have said both were damaged by gunfire. They're investigating the shootings as a criminal act.
A 2015 Congressional Research Service report identified two prior attacks involving rifles in California and Florida. The report listed high voltage transformers as "the most vulnerable to damage from malicious acts" and listed security measures that can help better protect transformers.
The damage in Moore County left tens of thousands of people without power and will likely take days to repair.
"At Duke Energy, we have multiple layers of security protecting electrical infrastructure," spokesperson Logan Kureczka told WCNC Charlotte. "We take our responsibility to protect the power grid seriously, and we have a deep team of highly skilled professionals who monitor and respond to threats 24/7. These teams are working around the clock to stay ahead of potential threats in the future. Law enforcement and our security team are engaged in proactive security patrols, and we've stepped up security measures at critical assets in response to the recent events. Each site we operate and maintain is different, both in size, scale and geography, and we evaluate and implement security measures needed on a site-specific basis."
Following copper thefts in Gastonia and other parts of the state in 2013, Duke Energy upgraded security at several substations. A news release at the time outlined improvements at some locations that included the installation of video cameras, motion sensors and two-way loudspeakers.
Following a gunfire attack outside of San Jose involving another power company in 2013, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission directed the industry to write new rules for physical security. After all, critical equipment often sits in plain sight, protected by only a chain-link fence and security cameras.
In the initial years that followed, federal data show companies reported fewer Electric Disturbance Events caused by physical attacks, sabotage and vandalism, but WCNC Charlotte's review of federal records found the number of cases has since increased again.
The data show the Moore County attacks have impacted more customers than any other reported attack in recent years.