Analysis of Threats and Hazards and the Consequences of a Compromised Energy Sector

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The government has identified 16 infrastructure sectors essential to its security, economy and health care (The Department of Homeland Security 2018). These sectors guarantee the resilience of the society during crises. The sectors were created in order to consolidate and uphold the networks, assets, and networks in a coordinated manner (The Department of Homeland Security 2018). Energy Sector is one of the 16 infrastructural sectors created by PPD 21 (Office of the Press Secretary 2013).

Energy Sector

The energy sector is highly valued since it powers the national economy (The Department of Homeland Security 2018). Instability in power supply can severely hamper the wellbeing and wellness of the American people. It can also derail the functioning of other critical infrastructural sectors since it plays creates an enabling environment in their critical functions. The energy sector provides electricity in homes, businesses and avails vital energy used in the transportation system.

There are three main sources of energy used in the United States: oil, natural gas, and electricity (The Department of Homeland Security 2018). Over 6,413 American power plants are used to generate an estimated 1,075 GW. Electricity is generated by three main sources of power: coal and nuclear and hydropower.

The energy sector is highly interconnected with other infrastructural sectors such as the transportation sector, for instance, pipelines can be used in the transportation of oil to various parts of the country (The Department of Homeland Security 2018). In essence, all the sectors are largely reliant on the energy sector. These sectors require fuels and electricity to run efficiently.

High levels of preparedness and cooperation among the different stakeholders in the energy sector can enhance information sharing in face of serious threats like cyber attack. Collaboration among the stakeholders gives rise to best practices. 

Analysis of threats and hazards and the consequences of a compromised energy sector

The Energy Sector faces insurmountable threats and hazards in spite of efforts by the Department of Energy to enhance energy security. Threats to energy security include extreme weather and climate change.

The threat posed by climate change

The coastal infrastructure supporting the energy is at risk from effects of climate change such as a rise in sea level, flooding and storms (U.S. Department of Energy 2016). Production of gas and oil in Alaska are constantly disrupted by hurricanes, storms and increased temperature due to global warming. The hydropower generation has also been affected by climate change. The reduction in hydropower generation has been contributed by fluctuating snow packs and melting of snow.

The transmission of electricity is also affected by adverse climate change (U.S. Department of Energy 2016). The energy distribution systems hold and transport low levels of electric current due to regular storms and natural wildfires. This occurs since the electric current transported declines when there is an increase in surrounding air temperatures. The systems carrying electric current can also be susceptible to physical damages as a result of hurricanes, heat waves, and storms.

Onshore exploration of oil and natural gas is highly vulnerable to melting permafrost (U.S. Department of Energy 2013). The frozen ice found in Alaska has been melting thus contributing to the destruction of energy infrastructure or disruption of energy utilities as a result of restriction to seasonal accessibility to gas and oil exploration sites.

The extreme weather patterns have been creating devastating effects on power systems. In 2012, thunderstorms and turbulent storms collectively termed as derecho severely affected the residents of New Jersey and Illinois (The Department of Homeland Security 2015). The adverse weather caused power outages that led to about 5 million customers to experience power blackouts. Before the residents fully recovered from the strong winds and thunderstorms, another tragedy occurred. The Hurricane Sandy occurred leading to more challenges compared to the previous adverse weather patterns. Over 10 million businesses and households experienced power outages that lasted for weeks in some parts of the East Coast.

Human sabotage

In 2013, another unpleasant incident occurred in California (The Department of Homeland Security 2015). Saboteurs used rifles to damage transformers in California. The attackers, however, failed to achieve their goal of causing power outages. Nevertheless, they managed to cause a lot of damages amounting to $15 million. The repairs took almost one month to be completed.

Cyber threats

The energy security faces another serious threat: cyber attacks (Mission Support Center 2016). Companies that deal with energy utility are vulnerable to malware and phishing attacks. The cyber attacks can be used to capture and achieve data ex-filtration (Mission Support Center 2016).  Data ex-filtration involves unauthorized harvesting of data from computers or computer servers. The impact of such a compromise is not detected immediately. A hacker can also cause degradation or destruction of energy systems by using malware. There are many viruses that are employed to destroy energy utilities, for instance, Trojan (Mission Support Center 2016). Malware software can be used to instruct compromised machines and equipment to induce unauthorized downloading of data related to energy.

Cyber attacks can compromise other sectors that are largely dependent on the energy sector (The Department of Homeland Security 2015). The satellite, internet, and GPS are assets and systems used by other sectors that rely on the energy sector for electricity in order to function properly. Any cyber security vulnerability to energy sector will create deleterious effects on other sectors.

Aging energy infrastructure

The energy infrastructure is rapidly advancing towards their expected lifespan (The Department of Homeland Security 2015). The old infrastructure may experience reduced performance and effectiveness. They are also at an increased risk of becoming functionally obsolete thus facing potential failure.  The aging energy infrastructure cannot effectively respond to physical damages and cyber attacks thus becoming less resilient.

Shortage of workers

A large number of experienced workers in the energy sector are reaching their retirement age (U.S. Department of Homeland Security 2015). There are no efforts to replace the retiring skilled labor. This is a serious challenge since the expertise possessed by retiring workers is not being tapped to increase the resilience in the energy sector. At least half of the workers in energy utilities are expected to retire yet there are no signs to replace them. This is hazardous since it affects the ability of the energy infrastructure to meet the energy requirements of the citizens in the future.

Measures being taken by the stakeholders within the National Preparedness Goal

Mission areas are actually capabilities to be used to prevent or respond to any serious incident that threatens the survival of the people (Federal Emergency Management Agency 2018).  The mission areas are discussed below:

Prevention and protection

Prevention aims at thwarting an imminent terrorist attack or stopping an act of terror from happening while protection involves safeguarding the people from any harm (Federal Emergency Management Agency 2018). Measures that the government and the private sector are taking include:

Development of an effective warning system that informs the people about an imminent threat of terrorism is in place (Federal Emergency Management Agency 2018). This entails providing reliable and practical information on hazards and threats to the citizens before physical assistance is availed.

The stakeholders in the government and private sector gather intelligence and share information in order to plan and interdict the terrorists, cyber threats and other threats (Federal Emergency Management Agency 2018).

The actors are also facilitating security screening and search in order to prevent acts of terror from occurring (Federal Emergency Management Agency 2018). The use of sensors, bio-surveillance or manual search is being used to identify potential threats. The government and private sector also conduct forensic assessments in order to apprehend the terrorists.


            This mission is intended to lower the number of deaths or minimize the destruction of property caused by disasters (Federal Emergency Management Agency 2018). The capabilities required to minimize the impacts of disasters include planning, gathering and sharing information. The government and the private sector use emergency plans and mapping of areas prone to natural disasters in order to ensure resilience in the future.


The occurrence of a disastrous incident can threaten the survival of human beings, property and the surrounding environment (Federal Emergency Management Agency 2018). However, counter-actions can be used to save human lives, environment, and property after the occurrence of a disaster. The response measures in place include:

The stakeholders provide transport to evacuate the victims and animals (Federal Emergency Management Agency 2018). The transport system facilitates the movement of emergency response teams and equipment to the site. Delivery of commodities essential to the survival of the victims also takes place through the restoration of vital supply chains.

An effective response also ensures that the wellness of the public is protected (Federal Emergency Management Agency 2018). In addition, the emergency team, victims and the environment are protected from all types of hazards, for instance, fire disasters are managed through empowering firefighters with firefighting equipment.  

To manage facilities, the government and the private sector facilitate identification of victims (Federal Emergency Management Agency 2018). They also provide temporary and permanent shelter, food and drinking water to the victims. The actors also enhance information sharing in order reunite victims with their families and allow healthcare providers to offer treatment and counseling to the victims.


This entails improvement of infrastructure, economy and the health of the people after the occurrence of a catastrophe (Federal Emergency Management Agency 2018). The stakeholders restore infrastructure to enhance the survival of a community by implementing building solutions that meet the requirements of the entire community. In addition, effective compliance with executive orders and laws that preserve natural, historic and cultural sites also helps in enhancing resilience.


The energy sector faces serious threats such as cyber attacks and destruction by extreme weather patterns. The stakeholders, however, can prevent or minimize the impacts of these threats to guarantee resilience in the society. The actors, for instance, collaborate in gathering and sharing of information in order to thwart acts of terror in the community.


Federal Emergency Management Agency (2018). Core Capabilities. Retrieved from:

Mission Support Center (2016). Cyber Threat and Vulnerability Analysis of the U.S. Electric Sector. Retrieved from:

Office of the Press Secretary (2013). Presidential Policy Directive -- Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience. The White House. Retrieved from:

The Department of Homeland Security. Critical Infrastructure Sectors (2018). Retrieved from:

The Department of Homeland Security. Energy Sector-Specific Plan 2015. Retrieved from:

U.S. Department of Energy. U.S. Energy Sector Vulnerabilities and Resilience Solutions Reports (2016). Retrieved from:

U.S. Department of Energy. U.S. Energy Sector Vulnerabilities to Climate Change and Extreme Weather (2013). Retrieved from

August 21, 2023
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