Bottom Line Up Front: The Department of Energy (DOE) will implement new cybersecurity programs to enhance energy sector resilience. DOE’s announcement coincides with the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s support for the DOE’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER). Expect to see resilience to cyber attacks in future government procurement activities.
On March 18, 2021, CESER announced several new research programs designed to enhance the safety and resilience of the U.S. energy sector. The Trump administration established CESER to protect critical energy infrastructure by assisting oil, natural gas, and electricity industries secure their infrastructure. Currently, energy infrastructure faces threats not only from climate and natural hazards, but also evolving and increasing physical and cyber threats.
CESER aims to broaden its protections for energy infrastructure with new programs focusing on: (1) global supply chain security, (2) electromagnetic and geomagnetic interference, and (3) the next generation of cybersecurity.
DOE acknowledges that securing critical energy infrastructure remains vital to U.S. national interests, and CESER’s programs will be at the forefront of DOE’s efforts to improve the resiliency and reliability of the energy sector. Fortunately, this appears to be an area where the White House and the Senate agree.
A March 25, 2021 letter from the bipartisan leaders of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm urges prioritizing cybersecurity at DOE and maintaining CESER’s leadership role in the face of persistent threats to the power grid. The Committee’s letter cites a Government Accountability Office report, warning that the nation’s electrical grid is “increasingly at risk from cyberattacks,” recommending that DOE include cybersecurity as a priority effort in its plans to protect these systems.
What does this mean for stakeholders in the energy sector?
The most likely scenario involves a combination of additional resources and increased expectations for resilient systems, at least for those systems purchased or used by the Federal government:
Congress’s intent with the DHS appropriation to provide assistance to critical infrastructure appears to be supported by the White House: