For example, if Company A in Oklahoma City sells electricity to Company B in Des Moines, the power pools must be able to verify that there is capacity on the lines in between, whose lines the electricity will be travelling across so that they can maintain the stability of the grid, and collect the tariff paid to all the intervening transmission line owners. Without these systems being connected via computers, there is no way to accurately maintain and monitor the current system.
As the Northeast blackout of a few years ago pointed out, lack of visibility into these systems can result in a devastating cascade of blackouts. If the Chinese or Russions actually do have Trojan Horses planted in these systems, they could literally bring us to our knees and shut down the country. It is really not that far-fetched since many of the smaller electric companies are locally owned co-ops or run by small cities with little or no budgets for security infrastructure or staff. The NERC CIP standards are certainly a step in the the right direction, but require a huge investment in time and manpower many of these smaller companies can't really afford.
What it really comes down to in the end is continually increasing rates as customers demand reliability from their electricity provider. This reliability comes in the form of better computer controls of the electric system along with increases in the security around those systems. It is no longer feasible from a cost perspective to have a human being at each substation and switch gear with a walkie talkie. Utilities are trying to keep the rates down by automating the systems. Unfortunately, that introduces a new kind of risk. The risk that they are hacked, not only by the simple hacker, but by the nation state that views having a backdoor into our systems as a type of insurance in the event of war.
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