The Securing Energy Infrastructure Act, which passed as part of the United States FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act, pursues the development of defenses through partnerships between US National Laboratories and the critical Energy Sector. Through proposed partnerships; this new regulation will utilize engineering concepts to remove vulnerabilities that could allow hackers to access the elector grid.
“The energy grid is central to nearly all facets of 21st century life, but remains vulnerable to hackers,” US Senator Angus King (I-ME), co-chair of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, said on 31 December 2019. “If this critical infrastructure is compromised, our financial transactions, communications networks, healthcare services, and much more will be at risk. This bipartisan, common sense legislation will help defend our energy grid from attacks launched from thousands of miles away. I’m heartened to see this much-needed provision signed into law, and deeply grateful for the partnership of US Senator James Risch (R-ID) in this effort.”
The bill will establish a two-year pilot program within the National Laboratories to study covered entities and identify new classes of security vulnerabilities. The program would also research and test technology that could be used to isolate the most critical systems of covered entities from cyber-attacks. Additionally, the new Act will establish a working group to evaluate the technology solutions and develop a national cyber-informed strategy to isolate the energy grid from cyber-attacks. The planned working group will include representatives from federal government agencies, the energy industry, a state or regional energy agency, the National Laboratories, and other groups with relevant experience.
Senator Risch added to Senator King that, “the vulnerabilities afflicting our critical infrastructure are deeply troubling and there is strong bipartisan agreement that this issue requires our immediate attention. The Securing Energy Infrastructure Act has been many years in the making, and am confident our national laboratories, particularly the INL (Idaho National Laboratory) in my home state of Idaho, will lead this important research aimed at strengthening our grid security and preventing catastrophic cyberattacks.”
On 27 December 2019, legislation was introduced in the US Congress by Representative Conor Lamb (D17-PA) that directs the US Department of Energy to enhance the security and reliability of America’s electrical grid. The Grid Modernization Research and Development Act of 2019, or House Resolution 5428, would establish a research program to secure the nation’s power grid in the event of natural disasters and cyberthreats while boosting emergency response times to such incidents. The bill would authorize a new research and development program and extend the Smart Grid Regional Demonstration initiative. It would also amend existing legislation involving energy security and independence.
“The electric grid powers the lives of all Americans, we need to invest in the research to ensure our constituents, companies, and defense installations have electricity when they need it most,” said Rep. Lamb. “This commonsense legislation supports the research programs to adopt new technologies, improve the environment and create family-sustaining jobs in the energy economy.” Rep. Lamb introduced the bill alongside US Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler (R3-WA). This is yet another example of several bills introduced this past year to repair the country’s aging energy infrastructure. “When a sizable earthquake or other disaster impacts southwest Washington, it’s essential our families and seniors can depend on working electricity to help keep them safe,” said Rep. Beutler.
Costs to implement grid improvements will total $240 million in fiscal year 2020, according to this legislation. Additional fiscal allocations are expected to steadily increase through 2024. The proposed research is expected to add better integration of within buildings and electric vehicle usage into the existing grid infrastructure. North Carolina-based Duke Energy, the Edison Electric Institute and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association are all supporting this legislation.
The US electrical grid is the largest unified network in the world, connecting power lines and generating plants to factories, homes and businesses. All the now passed and current proposed US legislation, regarding the future protection of the US electrical grid, demonstrate the seriousness of law makers in protecting the US energy sector.
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 The US Dept of Energy National Laboratories and Technology Centers are a system of facilities and laboratories overseen by the United States Department of Energy for the purpose of advancing science and technology to fulfill the DOE mission.