New national reliability standards set by the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC), the designated Electric Reliability Organization (ERO) for the nation, took effect this week, June 18, 2007. To comply with some of the security standards, the California Independent System Operator Corporation (California ISO) was required to further restrict access to its control rooms.

The new reliability standards, created in response to the August 2003 eastern blackout, are focused on the technical operation of the grid. However, some of the standards also relate to both physical and information security issues. The California ISO can no longer allow the public, including the news media, directly onto the floors of its operations centers.

The new NERC rules apply to organizations that are part of the National Critical Infrastructure. As the transmission operator for approximately 80 percent of the state, the California ISO is responsible for the electrical lifeblood of one of the largest economies in the world. Its people, facilities and operations are considered “critical assets.”

At the same time, the California ISO understands the needs of the news media and the public for transparent information.

“Media play a central role in disseminating information regarding important energy issues and communicating conservation appeals that help us reduce electrical demand on the power grid,” said ISO Director of Communications Stephanie McCorkle. “The California ISO is committed to providing this critical information to the public via media interviews with energy experts as well as visual access to the control room, when possible, via a glassed observation room. As always, public information officers are available 24/7 to assist the media. Our Media Room, where news conferences are conducted, has been updated and will be made available to media for their general use.”