The attack on the Moore County substation that left over 45,000 homes and businesses without powers for days was one in a recent string of such attacks. Worse, such attacks have increased tremendously just this year alone.

As reported by NBC News, just through August of this year, there had been 106 attacks and incidents of vandalism against the electrical grid leading to electrical emergencies and outages. And 2022 was the first year to reach triple digits in the number of attacks — and again, this year’s data are for only eight months so far. NBC published this graph showing the spike in attacks:

As of now, no motive or suspect behind the Moore County attack has been made public. Irresponsibly, that lack of clarity has caused our local media to propose possible motives and then repeat them until they are taken to be factual. For example, a typically unsigned Capital Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL asked: “Was it an act of discrimination against cross dressers? Was it about trying to fix elections so favored candidates win – regardless of what voters might have said? It needs to stop.” 

Given the rising, ongoing, and nationwide nature of this problem, it’s highly unlikely that the motive just happens to coincide with the two Current Things that media want you to be the most upset about at this particular moment in time: that parents would be concerned about drag queens reading to small children and that citizens would express worries aloud about the security of elections. That they didn’t also blame Elon Musk is a mild surprise.

Perhaps they are still upset about having to file multiple news stories about how terrible it is for people to be without power, given their preexisting editorial stances in favor of replacing cheap, reliable power sources with expensive, unreliable sources that place North Carolinians at risk of California-style rolling blackouts — or for forcing widespread adoption of electric vehicles that even they acknowledge risk crashing the grid.

Regardless of the reason for the attack, Gov. Roy Cooper was correct when he said that “Protecting critical infrastructure like our power system must be a top priority.” Cooper noted that this attack raises a new level of threat, it’s one that federal and state officials and electric utilities must be much better prepared against, and the suspicion of domestic terrorism behind it should not be dismissed. Are these increasing attacks probing exercises? Is there some nefarious coordination behind them? Recall it was only a year and a half ago that gasoline shortages hit several U.S. states, especially North Carolina, owing to a ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline

Access to energy is absolutely vital, and Cooper discussed some of the many impacts and emergency concerns in Moore County during this power outage, which — it’s important to point out — occurred during mild weather:

Helping the vulnerable people and the places where they live, including adult care homes, is a priority. Making sure that people are warm as the night approaches, making sure people are cared for, making sure that critical services at hospitals, at law enforcement, at emergency management services are supported and available — all of that is crucial.

Now while we are determined to keep people safe, we’re also deeply concerned about the small businesses that are losing out on valuable retail time right here before the holidays as well as our school students who are missing valuable class time because of closure of schools. Local and the state response to all of this has been swift and strong, and I know that we’ll all keep working until the power is restored and do whatever we need to do afterward as well will be important. 

The State of North Carolina, Moore County, and Duke Energy are each offering rewards up $25,000 apiece for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for Moore County substation attack.