PUC Highlights Importance of Critical Utility Infrastructure
Published on 10/27/2022
Filed under: Electric Gas Pipeline Rails Telecommunications Water and Wastewater
Severe Storms, Cyber Threats and Aging Systems all Challenge the Continuation of Vital Services Public Utility Services
HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today recognized National Critical Infrastructure Security Month, noting the importance of Pennsylvania’s critical utility systems and the extensive behind-the-scenes efforts by public utilities and thousands of utility workers in keeping our communities safe and secure.
“Our homes, businesses, communities and institutions all depend on the safe and reliable delivery of public utility services – but those critical systems face many challenges,” said PUC Chair Gladys Brown Dutrieuille. “Safeguarding these systems against an assortment of threats, from severe weather and natural disasters to cyber-attacks and physical threats, is a constant endeavor.”
While the security and resilience of our critical utility systems is recognized every November, the work of keeping these essential systems secure and operating is a year-round task.
Severe Weather Concern
As noted recently with the release of the PUC’s annual electric service reliability report, an increased tempo of storms continues to impact utility service across Pennsylvania – which saw a record high number of “reportable outage events” that disrupted electric service during 2021.
Overall, the outage events in 2021 were primarily driven by heavy rain and high winds during spring and summer thunderstorms, interrupting service to 1.9 million customers. In conjunction with those storms, downed trees or falling tree limbs are the number one cause of electric service outages across the state.
According to the report, the number of outages related to severe weather appear to be increasing in frequency for all the state’s electric distribution companies (EDCs), including those that have strong infrastructure improvement plans. The report underscores the importance of continuing investment in reliability improvement and resilience to weather events.
The Growing Importance of Cybersecurity
The PUC also continues to highlight the importance of cybersecurity – including the growing threat of cyber-attacks launched by hostile nations or affiliated groups.
According to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), all organizations—regardless of size—should adopt a heightened posture when it comes to cybersecurity and protecting their most critical assets.
Nationally, the CISA “Shields Up” campaign offers information and resources for individuals, businesses, and institutions to guide proactive efforts to enhance cybersecurity at home and in the workplace.
Key Partnerships to Safeguard Services
For years, Pennsylvania has been at the forefront of efforts to gather key stakeholders in government, utilities and nonprofit organizations to collaborate and prepare for potential threats. Much of that work was accomplished as part of statewide exercises and forums concerning cyber or natural ‘Black Sky’ incidents – incidents that have the potential to cause widespread disruptions to critical utility systems.
Additionally, the PUC coordinates with utilities, other government agencies, emergency response organizations and other stakeholders to regularly practice and evaluate state responses to potential disruptions of critical systems.
About the PUC
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities; ensures safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protects the public interest; educates consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; furthers economic development; and fosters new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.
Visit the PUC’s website at www.puc.pa.gov for recent news releases and video of select proceedings. You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube. Search for the “Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission” or “PA PUC” on your favorite social media channel for updates on utility issues and other helpful consumer information.
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