Cascading Events in the Aftermath of a Targeted Physical Attack on the Power Grid

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Virginia Tech

This work studies the consequences of a human-initiated targeted attack on the electric power system by simulating the detonation of a bomb at one or more substations in and around Washington DC. An AC power flow based transient analysis on a realistic power grid model of Eastern Interconnection is considered to study the cascading events. A detailed model of control and protection system in the power grid is considered to ensure the accurate representation of cascading outages. Particularly, the problem of identifying a set of k critical nodes, whose failure/attack leads to the maximum adverse impact on the power system has been analyzed in detail. It is observed that a greedy approach yields node sets with higher criticality than a degree-based approach, which has been suggested in many prior works. Furthermore, it is seen that the impact of a targeted attack exhibits a nonmonotonic behavior as a function of the target set size k. The consideration of hidden failures in the protective relays has revealed that the outage of certain lines/buses in the course of cascading events can save the power grid from a system collapse. Finally, a comparison with the DC steady state analysis of cascading events shows that a transient stability assessment is necessary to obtain the complete picture of cascading events in the aftermath of a targeted attack on the power grid.

Cascading failures, targeted attack, hidden failures