Substation attacks cause North Carolina energy companies, lawmakers to take action

19 January 2023

RANDOLPH COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — On Thursday morning, EnergyUnited will replace a transformer that was damaged by gunfire in Randolph County on Tuesday.

None of the 1,500 customers the substation serves lost power because crews were able to transfer the load to another substation nearby.

Randolph County substation damaged by gunfire weeks after similar attack in Moore County

The FBI is working with law enforcement in Randolph and Moore Counties to determine whether there is a connection between the two cases. The investigation in Randolph County is in the early stages, but it’s enough to make lawmakers take action.

“We are wanting the stiffest penalties of any state in the country in North Carolina,” said Rep. Neal Jackson, who represents Randolph and Moore Counties in the North Carolina General Assembly.

Jackson and his colleagues are discussing legislation, which would create stiffer punishments for people who attack substations.

Jackson serves the two areas in our state where these crimes happened in the past two months.

“The fact that someone would harm our citizens and do evil, that they would hurt us and take away one of our necessities at such a crucial time, it was just alarming,” he said.

Jackson lives in Moore County and saw firsthand the damage after someone fired shots into two substations there. It left more than 40,000 homes and businesses without power for several days.

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“There were no lights,” Jackson said. “It was very creepy to be down in an area that was pitch dark.”

That darkness is prompting leaders closer to home to plan ahead in case an attack like this happens again in Randolph County.

The CEO of the Randolph Electric Membership Corporation said in a statement: “We incorporate multiple layers of security which we continuously monitor across our systems to protect critical infrastructure from natural and manmade threats. For security reasons, we can’t speak about specific security measures that we have in place.”

High Point crews are having the same conversation. They often practice their response to outages caused by storms. It’s harder for them to plan for these attacks, which come without any warning.

“We are also aware that you know there are different situations that can come up,” said Ryan Ferguson, the city’s marketing manager. “We take what we learn from those situations and put that towards you know plans and ideas.”

While energy companies make their plans to prevent these attacks, lawmakers in Raleigh will keep pushing for change on their end.

“This is not a Republican or a Democrat issue,” Jackson said. “This is for the good of North Carolina…so we are going to come together and make a bipartisan measure.”

Emergency management leaders in Guilford County are also in talks with these energy companies should they have to respond to emergency situations related to power outages. They are ready to provide shelter for people and have more than 120 partner agencies that can provide other resources.

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