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Protecting the Energy Grid for Customers
Protecting the nation’s energy grid and ensuring a reliable and affordable supply of energy are top priorities for America’s electric companies. The energy grid’s complex, interconnected technologies may be impacted by a variety of natural disasters, as well as by malicious, man-made cyber or physical attacks. To address these hazards, 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 includes close coordination among industry members and with government partners at all levels; rigorous, mandatory, and enforceable reliability regulations; and efforts to prepare for, prevent, respond to, and recover from a wide variety of hazards. The industry prioritizes protecting the energy grid’s most critical components against the most likely threats; building in system resiliency and redundancy; and developing contingency plans for response and recovery should man-made or natural disasters impact operations.
 
The electric power industry’s security strategies constantly evolve and are closely coordinated with the federal government through a partnership called the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC). By working together, industry and government greatly enhance our nation’s ability to defend and protect against cyber and physical security threats. 
 
The ESCC serves as the principal liaison between the electric power industry and the federal government, and includes electric company CEOs and trade association leaders representing all segments of the industry. Its counterparts include senior Administration officials from the White House, relevant Cabinet agencies, federal law enforcement, and national security organizations. 
 
The ESCC focuses on several key areas, including planning and exercising coordinated responses to any attacks on the energy grid; making sure that information about threats is communicated quickly among government and industry stakeholders; deploying government-developed advanced technologies on energy systems that improve situational awareness of threats to the grid; and working closely with other interdependent critical industries (communications, financial services, transportation, water, and downstream natural gas) to prepare for major incidents. This helps all parties better understand threats, protect mutual dependencies, and share information.
 
The ESCC has been cited as a model for other critical infrastructure industries by the National Infrastructure Advisory Council, a group created after 9/11 to inform the President on critical infrastructure issues, and has been a catalyst for major initiatives that are improving the security posture of the industry and the nation.
Happening Now
Happening Now
October Is Cyber Security Awareness Month 
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 and partner with federal agencies to enhance sector-wide resilience to cyber and physical security threats. 
 
With continued investment in grid security measures, enhanced mutual assistance networks, and partnerships with the government, electric companies remain committed to securing the energy grid in the face of evolving threats. The industry has forged a strong partnership with the government through the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC) to prepare for, and respond to, national-level incidents or threats to critical infrastructure. EEI also continues to work with industry leaders, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on critical infrastructure standards for cyber and physical security to protect critical assets of the bulk power system.
 
The industry shares actionable information through the Electricity Information Sharing and Analysis Center (E-ISAC). The E-ISAC also manages the Cybersecurity Risk Information Sharing Program (CRISP), a public-private partnership co-funded by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the industry, that facilitates timely bi-directional sharing of actionable unclassified and classified threat information, using advanced collection, analysis, and dissemination tools to identify threat patterns and trends across the electric power industry.  
 
The ESCC also has developed and exercised the cyber mutual assistance (CMA) program to aid electric and natural gas companies in restoring necessary computer systems in the event of a cyber incident. Read more about CMA below.
 
Finally, the industry is making final preparations for its sector-wide exercise in November, known as GridEx IV. NERC’s GridEx series brings together hundreds of organizations and thousands of participants from industry, state and federal agencies, and partners in Canada and Mexico to improve how industry and government protect the grid and respond to incidents and threats.
Industry in Action
Industry in Action
Expanding On the Culture of Mutual Assistance
Mutual assistance is a hallmark of the electric power industry, and is an essential part of the industry’s restoration process and contingency planning. As cybersecurity risks proliferate, the electric power industry is expanding upon its culture of mutual assistance by organizing itself to prepare for new types of threats and by using the latest tools and technologies. 

In partnership with the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC), the industry has created the cyber mutual assistance (CMA) program, a voluntary group of more than 125 electric and natural gas companies that provides a pool of resources should a cyber incident exceed the capacity for an individual company to respond. The CMA program is modeled on the industry’s traditional mutual assistance networks. Today, more than 80 percent of U.S. electricity customers are served by a CMA program participant.
Delivering Innovation
Delivering Innovation
Investments in Technology Help Make Infrastructure More Resilient 
Investing in a robust, flexible, dynamic, and secure energy grid is a multi-billion-dollar, multi-year effort. The electric power industry continues to make significant investments to harden the energy grid and to make its infrastructure more resilient.
 
EEI’s member companies invested an estimated $52.8 billion in the energy grid’s transmission and distribution infrastructure in 2016. This level of investment is more than twice what it was a decade ago. These investments paid off during Harvey and Irma, two historic storms that caused severe damage across seven states. 
 
During these recent storms, electric company investments in smart grid technologies helped them respond to major outages. Digital infrastructure including smart meters, now deployed in more than half of all U.S. homes, helped companies to identify where outages were occurring. In many places, hardened infrastructure like concrete power poles better withstood high winds and enabled faster restoration. Flood-monitoring equipment in substations helped to protect critical infrastructure from severe damage, and electric companies deployed drones to inspect infrastructure and speed damage assessment. 
 
Read more about the smarter energy infrastructure electric companies are developing and delivering on EEI’s Delivering the Future site.
Issue in Focus
Issue in Focus
What You Should Know About EMPs and GMDs
The energy grid’s complex, interconnected technologies may be impacted by bursts of electromagnetic energy such as naturally occurring geomagnetic disturbances (GMDs) or malicious, man-made electromagnetic pulses (EMPs). Through the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC), the electric power industry is working closely with the Electric Power Research Institute, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, and the government, including the National Laboratories, to enhance resiliency and to mitigate threats from GMDs and EMPs.
 
There are important differences between man-made EMPs, such as those from directed energy weapons or nuclear detonations, and naturally occurring GMDs, such as solar flares. Each type of threat must be addressed independently, and appropriate mitigation and protection strategies must be implemented for each. 
 
Policymakers and the electric power industry share the goal of developing capable, cost-effective mitigation to all threats. Because the effects of an EMP attack on the energy grid are not sufficiently understood or remain classified, crafting appropriate mitigations and making business-risk decisions to address EMP threats require more research to better understand how EMPs could impact the grid; inform the development of EMP-resistant grid components; and develop best practices to help limit the impact of these threats.
 
To address these challenges, EPRI launched a research project in 2016 to provide a scientific basis for investments to mitigate EMP threats, inform response and recovery efforts, and develop other partnerships that will help the nation’s critical infrastructure be better prepared for existential threats to the energy grid. As the primary liaison between senior leadership in the federal government and the industry, the ESCC is working with government partners to better understand the threat posed to energy infrastructure from a man-made EMP. 
 
Learn more in EEI’s factsheet.
What We're Reading
What We're Reading
Securing the Energy Grid Is a Team Sport
“Our collaboration with federal agencies has resulted in several important changes to how we manage the energy grid and how we respond when incidents affect energy infrastructure,” writes Exelon President and CEO and EEI Vice Chairman Chris Crane in the latest issue of Electric Perspectives
 
“For example, we developed the ESCC Playbook, which provides a framework for how industry and government work together during major natural and man-made disasters. We also have improved our coordination with our federal partners through preparedness exercises.”
 
Contingency Planning
Contingency Planning
Applying Lessons and Developing Resilience 
“Because electric company operators have to be right 100 percent of the time but our adversaries only have to be right once, the electric power sector recognizes the importance of preparing for situations without the benefit of digital control,” writes Tom Galloway, president and CEO of North American Transmission Forum, in Electric Perspectives.
 
“We all know that the bulk electric system is remarkably resilient—it is designed to provide multiple layers of defense and is supported by business continuity plans to address loss of critical equipment, control center functions, and energy management system capabilities. However, high-impact, low-frequency threats could degrade operating conditions and could impact system reliability. Because energy grid security is a top priority for the electric power industry, we are evaluating new supplemental operating strategies, procedures, and capabilities to support bulk power system operations in extreme circumstances.”
 
Security Matters
Security Matters
Mutual Assistance in the Cyber Age
“Developing a mutual assistance framework for cyber threats has its own set of unique challenges,” writes William J. Fehrman, president and CEO of MidAmerican Energy Company, in Electric Perspectives
 
“The cyber domain does not honor physical or geographical boundaries, and the skills to respond, remediate, and recover from a widespread cyber incident are different from the field workers in traditional mutual assistance.
 
“The electric sector’s Cyber Mutual Assistance Task Force is already engaging other critical infrastructure sectors, including communications, downstream natural gas, transportation, banking, the vendor community, and the government to invest in well-planned, well-executed industry response capabilities.”
 
Future Focus
Future Focus
Our Policy Platform
To ensure that electric companies can deliver the energy future that customers want and expect, it is critical that public policies help to strengthen the energy grid’s resilience against cyber and physical security attacks. Some of the key building blocks of a more dynamic, more resilient, and more secure energy grid are:
  • ensuring that policymakers, stakeholders, and customers understand the value of the energy grid.
  • reinforcing industry efforts to strengthen grid security defenses by expanding and building upon our partnership with the federal government.
  • allowing electric companies to plan, build, and operate the energy grid as a platform to integrate a diverse set of emerging technologies.
  • supporting public policies that promote investment in new grid technologies while balancing security risk, operational efficiency, and customer costs.
  • encouraging expanded partnerships between the electric power industry and leading technology companies to bring tomorrow’s technologies to customers today.
  • supporting federal research and development on grid security technologies and expediting technology transfer to the private sector.
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