9 Investigates: Power grid attacks up 79%; discrepancies in reporting incidents

MOORE COUNTY, N.C. — Newly released data from the Department of Energy (DOE) shows a rise in threats against the United States’ power grid. In just one year, the nation saw a 79% increase in power disturbances.

Channel 9′s investigative reporter Madison Carter learned why the data might not tell the whole story.

Power companies are required to report power grid attacks to the DOE and when they make those reports, they choose how to categorize each incident.


Last year, there were 163 reported incidents of physical attack, vandalism, suspicious activity or sabotage on the nation’s power grid. That’s compared to 91 reported incidents in 2021 and 96 incidents in 2020.

When Channel 9 looked through the data, the way Duke Energy reported the intentional gunfire attacks in Moore County stood out. That event left thousands of residents in the dark for nearly a week.

Duke Energy reported the incident, not as a “physical attack,” but as “vandalism.”

Manny Cancel, CEO of the Electricity Information Sharing and Analysis Center, said that’s how the Department of Energy describes much more minor events that make up the majority of electrical disturbances.

“The overwhelming majority are petty vandalism, theft, particularly copper theft,” he said. “A lot of break-ins to do that, occasionally arson or damage, but that is primarily what we’re seeing.”

Duke Energy spokesperson Jeff Brooks explained a possible cause of the discrepancy. He said the company updated its language as soon as it was clear this was a physical attack but it’s unclear whether Duke updated its report to the DOE.


Companies must submit a “final report” or update to the DOE within 72 hours of an event.

“(It’s) possible that when the report was filed it was categorized as vandalism, because we were still looking into the cause,” Brooks said.

9 Investigates wants to be sure the information we bring you is accurate, so we’ve spent months digging for answers ourselves about what exactly has been happening in Moore County since that attack.

>> On Wednesday, Carter will walk through the trove of information we were able to get our hands on, including some we were never supposed to see.

(WATCH BELOW: State lawmakers propose power grid protections after attacks)

Madison Carter

Madison Carter, wsoctv.com

Madison is an investigative reporter and anchor for Channel 9.