Feds warn of danger to electrical grid
(NewsNation) — While many people are taking time off for the holidays, suspected criminals have not pressed pause on targeting the electric grid.
A new federal law enforcement memo from last week, obtained exclusively by NewsNation, warns of three suspected arsons at energy facilities in Hawaii.
“There have been three recent arson events reported in Hawaii. One of the events caused damage to perimeter fencing of an electrical substation,” the memo read.
The damage was reported to be minor and there doesn’t appear to have been any loss of power.
The memo also outlined the ease with which substations and other power infrastructure can be hit. It said “fire, blunt instruments, cutting tools, vehicle ramming and aerial drops from UAS (drones) are easy to do, require minimum tools and little planning.”
No one has claimed responsibility for the wave of physical attacks and intrusions in recent months, from Florida to North Carolina to Oregon and Washington. Nor has there been any motive determined for the attacks.
But federal law enforcement has cited suspected white supremacists sharing specific location information of substations in recent months.
Calum Farley, Ant-Defamation League extremist researcher, said white supremacists subscribe to a set of ideas known as “accelerationism.” It involves causing chaos to intensify racial conflict, with the goal of building the world they want to see in the aftermath.
“So for them, what they see is by disrupting the system, in this case, the power grid, they’re able to kind of, in their belief system, wake people up to what’s currently going on in society,” Farley said.
Even if they haven’t claimed responsibility, Farley said white supremacists are celebrating the recent attacks.
“Again, they might not claim responsibility for it, but they are happy that it is happening. And we are seeing kind of an uptick in the propaganda and the discussion around these sorts of attacks,” he said.
It’s not just physical attacks the grid is vulnerable to.
In its 2021 annual report Hawaiian Electric, the provider for 95% of the Hawaiian islands, recognized a threat to security with an emphasis on cybersecurity, noting: “The Company may be subject to information technology and operational system failures, network disruptions, cyber-attacks and breaches in data security that could adversely affect its businesses and reputation.”
Hawaiian Electric told NewsNation it believes at least two of the suspected arsons were in fact associated with homeless encampments close to several of their facilities. In a statement, a spokesman said. “Local and federal agencies are not aware of any specific or credible threats to electrical grid infrastructure in Hawaii. The physical security of our grid is a top priority of Hawaiian Electric and we work closely with law enforcement and report all suspicious incidents.”
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