Can you imagine what our world would be like without the availability of electricity?  To start, nothing in your home that runs on electricity would function, all of your food that was in your refrigerator and freezer would eventually defrost and if not consumed, would start to spoil.  Not to mention, how are you going to cook the food, unless you have a wood or coal burning stove.  Unless you had an alternative heat source, it would get very cold in your house, especially if you live in the northern plains.  Your days would be governed by the sun and the nights would be illuminated by kerosene lamps.  With no pumping stations, the availability of water would be an issue if you do not have a river or stream nearby, not to mention the need for an outhouse.

Most businesses could not operate and the availability of goods could not support our current population.  What was once an industrial, modern nation would be thrust back into a time when the majority of people lived off the land and also lived a very hard life.  The world as we know it would be gone and unfortunately, it would quickly become a world ruled by those who have and those who do not.  The doomsayers and survivalists would be in seventh heaven, so to say, but it would be a chaotic and deadly transition, in which, many people would cease to exist.  It would not be a world that many of us could or would not survive in, nor would I want to try.  So, this along with other recent attacks on electrical substations is so alarming.

A mysterious and sophisticated sniper attack last year on a Silicon Valley power substation has underscored concerns about the vulnerability of the country’s electrical grid and prompted debate over whether it was an act of terrorism.

The chain of events is not in dispute: Shortly before 1:30 a.m. on April 16, 2013, one or more people methodically cut communication cables near a Pacific Gas & Electric substation in San Jose, sprayed more than 100 rifle bullets and knocked out 17 of the station’s 23 transformers before fleeing and avoiding capture.  Though the utility was able to prevent a power failure by diverting electricity from other areas, the damage took 27 days to repair.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been investigating the attack, but says it has neither evidence of terrorism nor any suspects.

With few witnesses and little other evidence, the F.B.I.’s investigation has made little progress. In the coming weeks, the bureau may have to change its tactics and reach out to the public for help in identifying suspects.  It is believed that this was a very professional, very well organized, well thought out and well-executed action that took place and this could have been a dry run” for an even bigger attack.

The attack has renewed anxiety over the potential vulnerability of the power grid to physical attack, adding to worries about cybersecurity and the ordinary adversaries of hurricanes, floods, wild animals and falling trees.

On Wednesday, utility officials tried to tamp down concern. “It’s harder to knock out the lights than people think because of redundancy and resilience,” said Gerry W. Cauley, president of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation.  Substations like the one attacked in San Jose are clusters of transformers that change the voltage of electricity, increasing it to higher levels for transmission and reducing it to lower levels for distribution.  At high voltage, line losses are smaller.

The three power grids in North America — one covering Texas, and one each covering the eastern and western portions of the United States and Canada — have thousands of substations. The ones most urgently needing protection were the ones connecting transmission lines of various high voltages, and that number is reported to be around a 100 nationwide.  There currently is not a comprehensive plan developed to defend them.

The location of substations is public, but it is a closely guarded secret what combination of them would have to be knocked out to cause extensive harm.  It could be as few as a handful in each of the three grids, the eastern continent, from Halifax to New Orleans, the western continent, from New Mexico to Vancouver, and Texas.

In response to the April attack, the nation’s electric utilities began a two-and-a-half-year program to identify what substations or combinations of substations were most critical to the operations of the continent’s three power grids, how to minimize damage to them once an attack was detected, how to bring in law enforcement personnel before sending in the repair crews, and how to reconfigure the system after an attack to achieve maximum capacity.

The attack on the PG&E facility targeted the sophisticated transformers that are at the backbone of the nation’s electricity grid.  The giant pieces of equipment are essential, costly and could take months to replace.  Knock out enough of them, experts warn, and an entire region can be crippled for an extended period.  They are also typically out in the open like sitting ducks.

On that April night, the attackers managed to disable 17 of them just by shooting through a chain-link fence.  The bullet holes caused the transformers to leak thousands of gallons of oil, and ultimately overheat.  Grid operators scrambled to reroute power from elsewhere to keep the system from collapse.  The power stayed on, but just barely, because it happened during a time when demand for electricity was very low.

The grid’s interdependence on substations across large swaths of the country — and a scarcity of spare equipment — makes it possible to trigger an enduring blackout across several states simply by destroying key transformers in one of them.

In reviewing the evidence, days after the April shooting, with experts from the Pentagon and the FBI; they noticed piles of stones had been set up outside the site, apparently by someone who had scoped it out to guide the snipers.  The bullet holes were carefully targeted so as not to hit the parts of the equipment that would cause an explosion and attract the attention of drivers on nearby U.S. 101.  Of some 120 shots fired from at least 40 yards outside the fence, 110 of them hit transformers.

The attackers opened two 75-pound manhole covers and used a ladder to cut fiber-optic lines, in a possible attempt to disconnect security cameras.  They fired for seven minutes, targeting radiators on the banks of transformers.

This wasn’t an incident where a bunch of idiots decided after a bunch of brewskis, they were going to shoot up a substation, when you look at this event and how calculated, how well organized, and how well thought out it was, it clearly indicates that a chain-link fence is not enough to secure a substation.