In April 2013, there was an orchestrated attack on the PG&E Metcalf Substation, which is just south of San Jose, California.  In the early morning communications cables were cut and several transformers and breakers in the substation were shot. The whole event took much less than an hour from start to finish. The number of shots fired was of the order of 100. As the insulating oil drained from the transformers they overheated and protection took them off line. The grid functioned as it is designed. Power from other sources was re-routed to maintain that part of Silicon Valley.

On Feb. 5, 2014, the Wall Street Journal published a front-page, above-the-fold story: "Sniper Attack, Mystery Assault On Power Grid." The story relied heavily on interviews with the person who was the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman at the time of the incident. He has since left FERC and seems to have no compunction of speaking about this event in great detail. It is probably only a coincidence that he is the “Strategic Council” promoting a new trade association. The WSJ article has prompted a flurry of similar stories in a lot of mainstream print and broadcast media. Most of these stories are large on conjecture and short on any perspective from PG&E. All of this press attention is prompting the familiar calls of “We need to better protect the grid” where the “we” doesn’t seem to include the rational thought-process of the folks who actually design and operate the grid.

On Feb. 10, 2014, the PG&E Currents web site posted a video of Geisha Williams, PG&E’s executive vice president of electric operations, talking about this event and what has gone on since then. It is worth the five-minute running time of this video to get the utility perspective. It is also not a surprise that her discussion of this is not the “ready, shoot, aim” approach that seems to be encouraged by most of the print media coverage and the political-class calls for action that the coverage has spawned. Take a look and decide for yourself.