Overall, the nation’s electric grid is both safe and reliable.
However, as recent events (the storms, the attacks, etc.) have shown it is not impervious to significant disruption.
While it would obviously be impractical to station an armed guard next to every transformer, an expansion of video and “smart” surveillance of facilities is needed. Direct personal attacks on power transmission facilities is a very rare occurrence (in part due to the inherent risk of electrocuting oneself) but stepping up monitoring activities is an appropriate measure to take.
But a key part of making the entire system safer and more reliable is to make it, for lack of a better term, bigger. The interconnectivity of the grid lends itself to the possibility of massive cascade failures if just a few key nodes or lines experience problems – New York 1965 being the classic example. By creating additional redundancies in the system – more lines, more substations, etc. – the impact of similar failures can be greatly reduced.
Affordability of power is also an important component to any discussion of the grid. The more affordable the power supplied through the grid the more the utilities can spend to ensure its safe and reliable transmission. Additionally, the regularity structure governing our grid can and should be all three items: affordability, reliability, and safety. In too many cases, regulatory agency failure has led to grid failure – California 2000-2001 being the classic example.
In my view, the grid can never be absolutely 100 percent secure. But the grid exists to serve all Americans and it can be made safer and more reliable so that any disruption to that service is minimized. That’s the whole point of the grid – getting power to business and people.