Bill Would Provide Comprehensive Study of Electric Grid Resiliency

An amendment to the National Cybersecurity & Critical Infrastructure Protection Act (NCCIP) passed by the House Committee on Homeland Security would require an “assessment of actions necessary to expand and strengthen the capabilities of the electric grid to prepare for, respond to, mitigate and recover from a natural disaster and cyber attacks.”

Borne out of a bill first introduced in August 2013, by Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr. (R-NJ), the SMART Grid Study Act would also:

  • Direct $2 million to be used toward a comprehensive study conducted by the National Research Council in full cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies as necessary, and
  • Provide for a comprehensive outline of the construction and technical development stages, costs, jobs created, and protections associated with fully upgrading the electric grid.

“I am very pleased that the committee accepted my bill as an amendment,” Payne said.  “We have seen how natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy can devastate our power grid and expose us to cyber attacks by outside actors. My amendment will fully explore the steps we can take to strengthen our power grid, reduce the devastation of these threats, and make us more secure in the process.”

“Cyber threats are a major challenge as we transition to a modern electric grid,” said National Electrical Manufacturers Association President & CEO Evan R. Gaddis. “NEMA commends Chairman McCaul, Congressman Payne, Jr. and members of the Homeland Security Committee for adopting this important amendment.”

Dan Delurey, executive director of the Demand Response and Smart Grid Coalition (DRSG), said “the SMART Grid Study Act will fund necessary research into strengthening our nation’s electric grid” and “will help shape the policies and strategies necessary to accelerate the transition that is underway towards  a smarter, more resilient grid — one that can better respond to severe weather, integrate renewable energy and distributed generation, provide customers with information about their electricity usage, and make the electric sector more efficient overall.”

American Public Power Association (APPA) Vice President of Government Relations Joy Ditto also applauded Payne’s “efforts on cybersecurity issues and, in particular, his desire to examine ways the electric grid could be improved to better protect it from attacks.”

“While the electric utility sector has in place the necessary mandatory and enforceable cybersecurity and physical security standards for the bulk electric system, APPA believes there could be benefits from the National Research Council assessing the resilience and reliability of the grid,” Ditto said. “That is why APPA supports the SMART Grid Study Act and appreciates its passage by the full House Homeland Security Committee as part of the committee’s broader cybersecurity bill.”

“In October of 2012, Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc up and down the east coast, taking out power lines, disrupting critical infrastructure and upsetting businesses and the regional economy,” Payne said in introducing his amendment. “Many areas of my district were under water and were without power for nearly two weeks — and that was just the beginning of the destruction we saw to our critical infrastructure.”

Payne said “Hurricane Sandy demonstrated to us just how weak our electric grid is and how our critical infrastructure can quickly become vulnerable to layered disasters like a cyber attack. Put simply, our power grid needs an upgrade. It must be strengthened and made more resilient to withstand multiple kinds of disasters. My amendment seeks to do just that.”

“Recently, we have seen a significant increase in cyber attacks to our critical infrastructure, and we know that natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy can devastate our power grid, exposing us to attacks from outside actors,” Payne continued, noting that “these disasters, whether man-made or by Mother Nature, are a drain on our nation’s economy and expose us to other potentially more harmful attacks on our financial industry, chemical, telecommunications, water, wastewater and energy sectors.”

“My amendment,” he said, “will fully explore the steps we can take to strengthen our power grid, reduce the devastation of these threats, and make us more secure in the process.”

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