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The North American power grid is an enormous infrastructure that spans the continental U.S., Canada and the northern portion of Baja California, Mexico.

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) is a not-for-profit international regulatory authority whose mission is to assure the effective and efficient reduction of risks to the reliability and security of the North American power grid.

The responsibilities of NERC are considerable:

  • Develops and enforces reliability standards
  • Annually assesses seasonal and long-term reliability
  • Monitors the bulk power system through system awareness
  • Educates, trains and certifies industry personnel.

As the electric reliability organization (ERO) for North America, NERC is subject to oversight by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and governmental authorities in Canada. NERC’s jurisdiction includes users, owners, and operators of the bulk power system, which serves more than 334 million people.

What Are NERC Reliability Standards?

NERC reliability standards are developed using an industry-driven, ANSI-accredited procedure that ensures the process is open to all persons who are directly and materially affected by the reliability of the North American bulk power system.

The reliability standards must also be transparent to the public, demonstrates the consensus for each standard, fairly balances the interests of all stakeholders, provides for reasonable notice and opportunity for comment and enables the development of standards in a timely manner.

NERC reliability standards define the reliability requirements for planning and operating the North American bulk power system and are developed using a results-based approach that focuses on performance, risk management and entity capabilities.

Challenges for NERC

With technological advances on all fronts and the Department of Energy’s push to modernize the aging power grid with a modern “smart grid,” NERC has been beset by a number of challenges.

The Smart Grid is an especially enormous undertaking that focuses on the power of information technology to intelligently deliver energy by using a two-way communication and wisely meet the environmental requirements by facilitating the integration of green technologies.

In other words, NERC will need to develop a whole new set of reliability standards to cover Smart Grid technology, which is expected to go online around 2030. The featured architecture in the Smart Grid – the interconnectivity of Internet of Things (IoT) devices – presents additional security challenges as well.

The inherent problem with Internet of Things (IoT) interconnectivity is a technology that leaves software vulnerable to cyber-attacks as the electric grid changes from a relatively closed system to a complex, highly interconnected environment with opportunities for greater access by bad actors.  

In truth, widespread interconnectivity entails additional risks to the operations of national critical assets such as the electric grid, which by all reports has been and will continue to be enticing targets for cyber assaults.

Want to know more about NERC? Tonex offers NERC Certification Exam Preparation training, a 4-day course that covers all four exams of System Operator Certification.

Additionally, Tonex offers nearly 400 classes, seminars and workshops in close to four dozen categories of systems engineering training.

For more information, questions, comments, contact us.

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