FERC has proposed to approve new reliability rules to mitigate the effects of geomagnetic disturbances on the bulk power system.  Geomagnetic disturbances (GMD) are caused by solar events and result in distortions to the earth’s magnetic field.  These disturbances have the potential to cause the sudden collapse of the bulk power system.

FERC oversees reliability standards for the bulk power system.  However, there are no FERC reliability standards to address GMD events, so in 2013 FERC issued Order No. 779 directing the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) to develop them.  FERC now proposes to adopt an initial standard submitted by NERC.

The proposed standard requires reliability coordinators and transmission operators to develop operating plans and procedures as follows:

  • Reliability coordinators (the entities responsible for the reliable operation of the bulk power system within specific areas) must develop and implement GMD operating plans that coordinate the GMD operating procedures of transmission operators within their areas, and describe the activities that must be undertaken to mitigate the effects of a GMD event.
  • Reliability coordinators must disseminate space weather information within their areas.
  • Transmission operators must develop GMD operating procedures.

FERC notes that operating procedures are not a complete solution but are an important first step toward addressing the “GMD reliability gap” because they can be implemented relatively quickly to help alleviate abnormal system conditions and stabilize the bulk power system.

NERC is due to file early next year “second-stage GMD reliability standards” that require owners and operators of the bulk power system to conduct on-going assessments of the potential impact of GMD events and, where impacts are identified, to develop a plan to protect against them.

Comments on FERC’s proposal are due March 24, 2014.