Investigation into Pacific Gas & Electric’s Security Shows Weaknesses
- By Matt Holden
- Sep 23, 2014
The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit observed and tested Pacific Gas & Electric’s (PG&E) during more than a dozen unannounced trips to nine different substations. There they found potential holes in the company’s enhanced security network just a year and a half after gunmen attacked one substation in South San Jose, causing it to shut down for almost a month.
Substations are typically situated in remote areas with chain link fences and barbed wire. Transformers at these stations convert high voltage electricity from power plants and distribution lines to lower-voltage power suitable for homes and businesses.
On April 16, 2013, attackers fired 100 rifle rounds into 17 transformers. It lasted 19 minutes and had the potential to wipe the power out of most of Silicon Valley.
In the aftermath of the attack, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren called on PG&E to address their security systems. PG&E responded by promising to spend $100 million over the course of three years to increase security, including enhanced camera technology, increased lighting, and upgraded fencing to obstruct views to critical components. The company also promised to provide onsite security guards 24 hours a day.
Per the investigation, security guards were found at seven of the nine sites, while one site was unguarded and had an unlocked gate. The investigation included insight from a military veteran trained to make threat assessments. He found the security at some of the sites to be nonexistent.
Matt Holden is an Associate Content Editor for 1105 Media, Inc. He received his MFA and BA in journalism from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. He currently writes and edits for Occupational Health & Safety magazine, and Security Today.