Only eight percent of Americans believe the U.S. government is doing all it should to protect the electric grid from a potential attack, according to a new poll commissioned by Protect Our Power. The survey also found that 62 percent of Americans believe the nation’s electric power transmission grid is vulnerable to cyber or physical attacks from foreign enemies.
The Survey Monkey poll of 1,239 Americans was conducted during the first week of March. The findings include these highlights from respondents:
- 62 percent believe the electric grid is vulnerable to a cyber or physical attack
- 66 percent say they are unprepared for an extended power outage
- 67 percent say they would anticipate significant financial or quality-of-life damage in the event of an extended power outage
- 69 percent are aware of threats to the grid, including cyber and physical attacks
- 75 percent say federal legislation to improve critical infrastructure should include funding for the electric grid
“As we have seen in today’s joint warning from Homeland Security and the FBI, foreign entities are becoming increasingly successful in infiltrating our electric grid and it may only be a matter of time until serious damage is done,” said Jim Cunningham, executive director of Protect Our Power. “Our poll shows that the American people are increasingly aware of and concerned about the vulnerabilities of our electrical systems, and that’s why they’re asking the government to act more aggressively in addressing this urgent threat. ”
The nation’s electric grid is comprised of both private and public generation and distribution companies, which operate under both federal and state regulation to manage the 200,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines and 5.5 million miles of distribution lines that bring power to millions of U.S. homes and businesses every day.
“The complexity of how the nation’s electric grid is operated and regulated presents very real challenges when trying to take significant steps forward in cyber security,” said Suedeen Kelly, Protect Our Power’s regulatory counsel and a former Commissioner at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and now a partner at Washington law firm Jenner & Block.
“The public understands the need for coordination across agencies and entities, and our poll shows that the public expects the government to be a leader in getting the affected parties on the same page and urgently taking concrete steps to secure the grid now,” Kelly said.
Protect Our Power supports development of a robust public-private partnership to bring together the necessary expertise—utilities, system operators and technology companies—and financing (Congress, regulators and the private markets) to focus on making the electric grid more robust and resilient in the near-term.
“We should not keep kicking this can down the road,” Kelly said. “The time for federal regulators and Congress to act is now, before it is too late.”