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Securing the Nation’s Energy Grid

October is Cyber Security Awareness Month, but securing the nation’s energy grid is the electric power industry’s top priority all year long. Electric companies proactively safeguard the energy grid to help ensure a reliable and affordable supply of energy for customers. To address hazards that could impact the energy grid’s complex and interconnected technologies—including malicious, man-made cyber and physical attacks as well as a variety of natural disasters—the electric power industry is working hard to enhance the resilience of the energy grid and to accelerate recovery from potential incidents.

The electric power industry takes a risk-based “defense-in-depth” approach to protecting critical energy grid assets from all threats. This approach includes:

  • rigorous, mandatory, and enforceable reliability regulations;
  • close coordination among industry and with government partners at all levels; and
  • efforts to prepare, respond, and recover should an incident impact the energy grid.

The electric power industry is subject to mandatory and enforceable reliability standards that include cyber and physical security mandates. Regulations and standards provide a solid foundation for strengthening the industry’s security posture, but, given the dynamic threat environment, the industry’s efforts move beyond them. Electric companies tailor security programs to their unique operating and business environments, and they coordinate with the Electricity Information Sharing and Analysis Center (E-ISAC); federal agencies including the Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, and the FBI; and state governments to identify and mitigate threats.

The electric power industry’s security strategies constantly evolve and are closely coordinated with the federal government through a CEO-led partnership called the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC). The ESCC, which includes electric company CEOs and trade association leaders representing all segments of the electric power industry, serves as the principal liaison between the federal government and the electric power sector to coordinate efforts to prepare for, and respond to, national-level disasters or threats to critical infrastructure. By working together, industry and government greatly enhance our nation’s ability to defend and protect against cyber and physical security threats. To improve energy grid security, the ESCC focuses on:

  • identifying research and development opportunities for tools and technologies that improve situational awareness and enable machine-to-machine information sharing;
  • ensuring that timely, actionable intelligence and threat indicators are communicated between industry and government;
  • preparing for and exercising to coordinate responses to both natural and malicious threats to energy grid operations; and
  • working closely with other interdependent infrastructure sectors (communications, downstream natural gas, financial services, and water) to ensure all are prepared for, and can respond to, national-level incidents.

The National Infrastructure Advisory Council has called the ESCC a model for how critical infrastructure sectors can partner more effectively with government, and it has been a catalyst for major initiatives that are improving the security posture of the industry and the nation.

Read the ESCC's factsheet. Learn more in EEI’s grid security key messages and factsheet.