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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has issued a final rule requiring development of reliability standards that address the impact of geomagnetic disturbances (GMDs) on the U.S. Bulk-Power System.

GMDs caused by solar events distort, with varying intensities, the earth's magnetic field, FERC explains. These events can have potentially severe, widespread effects on reliable grid operation, including blackouts and damage to critical or vulnerable equipment. According to FERC, existing mandatory reliability standards do not adequately address GMD vulnerabilities.

The new rule directs the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC), the FERC-approved Electric Reliability Organization, to develop and submit new GMD standards in a two-stage process. FERC notes it did not require NERC to include any specific requirements in the GMD reliability standards; it identified issues to be considered and addressed in the standards-development process.

In the first stage, NERC must file, within six months of the rule taking effect, one or more reliability standards requiring owners and operators of the Bulk-Power System to develop and implement operational procedures to mitigate GMD effects. The final rule also directs NERC to conduct a GMD vulnerability assessment and identify facilities most at-risk from a severe disturbance.

In the second stage, NERC has 18 months to file standards identifying “benchmark GMD events,” which define the severity of GMD events a responsible entity must assess for potential impacts on the Bulk-Power System.

The final rule takes effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.




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