The Who, What, Where and Why of NERC Compliance

By North Central Electric,

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NERC has been the primary point of contact with the U.S. government for the electric industry since 1968. This corporation was established in case of a breach in national security or a critical infrastructure issue arises. NERC is authorized by the Federal Regulatory Commission (FERC) to ensure the dependability and consistency of the North American bulk power system (BPS). If something within this system is disrupted, its effects are felt in multiple locations, affecting over 300 million people.

NERC’s essential duty is to be a watchdog—overseeing and protecting all the electrical power stations throughout North America and parts of Canada and Mexico. Today the engineering experts at North Central Electric are sharing the what’s what on NERC—the who, what, where and why of NERC Compliance—and why this is important if you own, operate or use bulk power systems or BPS.

What Is NERC?

NERC stands for North American Electric Reliability Corporation. This international regulatory corporation’s main goal is to work on ways to reduce risks that threaten power grid infrastructures. NERC also works with business stakeholders to develop standards for power systems, as well as monitoring compliance and enforcing reliability of these standards. NERC standards are developed using a results-established approach based off performance, risk management and the capabilities of an entity operating the bulk power system. 

If a company’s standards aren’t up to compliance, NERC will step in. If violations are found, NERC will work with the organization at fault before issuing any penalties. Most facilities go through the extensive time it takes to ensure they are under compliance because of the hefty penalties they can face for non-compliance. Fines can oftentimes reach up to $1 million a day, so companies make sure they are always up to standards.   

Who Uses NERC Reliability Standards?

Any organization who owns or operates bulk power systems within the US, Canada and parts of Mexico must be NERC compliant. A bulk power system is an interconnected electrical system made up of generation and transmission facilities. This includes large power facilities that power your small, local power plants. 

What Is Required to Become NERC Compliant? 

NERC’s reliability standards are built around their four pillars of success. These include reliability, assurance, learning and risk-based approach. To ensure your organization is up to these standards, owners, operators and users must pass two elements of compliance—reliability and security. The reliability aspect involves the BPS within your organization to adequately and reliably provide power to customers at all times. The security portion requires organizations to be prepared for any type of unexpected power disruptions—whether it’s from a cybersecurity attack or inclement weather.  

Among the many standards of NERC is the Critical Infrastructure Protection plan or CIP. CIP can be defined as the need to protect the critical infrastructures against natural disasters, national cyber threats and any type of activities that could potentially hurt the economy. While there have been numerous versions of NERC CIP standards, the current one includes 14 standards, with 11 subject to enforcement. These enforceable standards include:

  • CIP-002: BES Cyber System Categorization
  • CIP-003: Security Management Controls
  • CIP-004: Personnel and Training
  • CIP-005: Electronic Security Perimeter(s) (ESP)
  • CIP-006: Physical Security Perimeter (PSP) of BES Cyber Systems
  • CIP-007: Systems Security Management
  • CIP-008: Incident Reporting and Response Planning
  • CIP-009: Recovery Plans for BES Cyber Systems
  • CIP-010: Configuration Change Management and Vulnerability
  • CIP-011: Information Protection
  • CIP-014: Physical Security

Why Become NERC Compliant?

When your bulk powered system, operators and users are NERC compliant, this ensures reliability in the transmission and generation of your bulk electrical services. While most of the world is powered by electricity, providing safety for critical infrastructures is key in preventing and maintaining damages and threats against the power system. By becoming NERC compliant, you can ensure the safety and reliability of your infrastructure.  

The electrical engineer experts at North Central Electric keep up to date with NERC standards so you don’t have to! Our team of highly trained professionals ensures your facility, equipment and employees can function properly, safely and efficiently. We are committed to providing our customers with the highest quality of workmanship and professionalism, ensuring we deliver clear and concise work. Contact us today to have the experts at NCE manage your NERC compliance.