Peters, Colleagues Hold Roundtable with Stakeholders to Discuss Strategies for Protecting Electric Grid from Extreme Space Weather Events

WASHINGTON, DC – The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a roundtable discussion with key stakeholders to discuss what the federal government can do to better prepare for the possibility of extreme space weather events. U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) questioned experts on the potentially disastrous consequences space weather poses to the electric grid. A geomagnetic disturbance (GMD) caused by a space weather event, such as a solar flare, could cause extensive power outages, disrupt daily life for millions of Americans and cost our economy billions of dollars in lost productivity. Video from the roundtable is available here.

“Extreme space weather events have the potential to severely disrupt our electric grid with potentially devastating effects on our economy and national security,” Senator Peters said. “Today’s roundtable brought us a step closer to ensuring that the federal government is prepared for and protected from such a catastrophic event. I look forward to working alongside my colleagues on the committee to strengthen our ability to predict and mitigate the impact of extreme space weather events on our nation’s critical infrastructure.”

As Ranking Member, Senator Peters invited Dr. Justin Kasper, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Space, Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan and Caitlin Durkovich, Director of Toffler Associates and former Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection with the Department of Homeland Security to testify at the roundtable. The discussion highlighted several possible strategies to improve space weather forecasting and safeguard the electric grid including:

  • Investments in research capabilities, including a shared effort between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to deploy spacecraft closer to the sun in order to improve understanding of GMD events and better forecast extreme space weather;
  • Strengthening interagency coordination among leadership at NOAA, NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to foster the transition from research to better forecasting;
  • Using lessons learned from hurricane preparedness efforts to better understand the degree of advanced warning grid owners and operators would need to take effective protective measures.