Texas’ electrical grid remains vulnerable to natural and human-caused dangers, according to State Sen. Bob Hall.

Hall stressed the importance of shoring up the grid in a presentation to Citizens Defending Freedom of Williamson County on Thursday night at their monthly meeting.

The Edgewood-based Republican, who has made grid security policies a priority since he joined the Texas Legislature in 2015, highlighted the threats to the state’s current energy infrastructure.

Of the pertinent threats, Hall pointed to the possibility of natural solar flares knocking out the American grid.

The last time the U.S. felt the substantial effects of a solar flare on its communications was in 1859 during the “Carrington Event,” when an atmospheric disturbance from the sun shut down telegraph lines and set railroads ablaze.

However, that was before the advent of the Electrical Revolution. Hall warned that the U.S., with its current electrical infrastructure, is extremely susceptible to a catastrophic event occurring the next time a flare hits the country.

Hall also called attention to the possibility of the nation’s enemies utilizing electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapons over the atmosphere or through transcontinental transportation.

“Recent things that have happened in the world help reinforce the fact that an attack on our grid system is very serious—the growing physical threats around our country just get bigger and bigger,” stated Hall.

Hall said an attack would be “catastrophic.”

“Just think about life without electricity. …it would move us back into the Stone Age, the early 1800s. And not many of us can plant tomatoes and potatoes, much less have food or access to water,” he said.

Hall noted that the threat of foreign adversaries deploying EMPs was not merely theoretical. It is something countries like China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia have been working on for many years.

You can get speech after speech after speech in which they [North Korea] threaten to attack the United States with an EMP missile. We’ve watched them launch their missiles.

One federal government study published in 2017, for example, showed that 90 percent of the U.S. population would be wiped out if North Korea detonated an EMP over the U.S. atmosphere.

In addition, Hall argued that an EMP attack need not even be over the U.S. atmosphere, but could come by way of clandestine cargo on shipping containers.

Hall said if you “mount that missile [an EMP] on a cargo ship, park it off the coast of Galveston, San Diego, Charleston, South Carolina—then in about 20 minutes of launch, the lights go out.”

Cyberattacks are another concern. According to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, the grids’ weak spots grew to a range of 23,000 to 24,000 points in 2023.

Hall believes that Texas’ unique statewide power grid is essential to maintain given the threats, and condemned those within the State Legislature trying to integrate the state into the national grid system.

“This is Texas. We don’t need the federal government in here doing anything, particularly messing with our electrical grid system,” said Hall.

Still, having a statewide grid is not good enough, according to Hall. The lawmaker says it is important for Texas to begin hardening its grid system through new insulation and security technology that is already available.

The energy company CenterPoint, he explained, has already built a “hardened control center” backup. Additionally, an engineer in the company has created a hardened substation that is cheaper than many modern, less secure ones.

“This engineer designed and built a substation that is hardened. It is now in production being made by Siemens. Centerpoint is deploying it already, and it costs 1/4—25 percent of what an unhardened substation costs because he used the new technology,” he said.

Finally, Hall urged attendees at the meeting to call their electrical companies and push for them to invest in the technology or similar varieties to protect the grid. Reaching out to local and statewide politicians is also necessary, he added.

The lawmaker was featured in the 2022 documentary “Grid Down, Power Up,” narrated by Dennis Quaid, which is now available to watch for free on YouTube.

Hall’s comments are particularly timely given the scope of the AT&T outage earlier this year that rocked Texas for several days. The company later held that it was caused by an internal error and not a cyberattack.

Luca Cacciatore

Luca H. Cacciatore is a journalist for Texas Scorecard. He is an American Moment inaugural fellow and former welder.