- The Trump administration is establishing a new office within the Department of Energy to focus on cybersecurity, energy security and emergency responses funded through $96 million in the White House's 2019 budget request.
- The new Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER) will be headed by an Assistant Secretary who will focus on energy infrastructure security.
- The announcement drew a thumbs up from the investor-owned utility trade group, the Edison Electric Institute, which predicted the new office will play an "essential role in coordinating government and industry efforts."
There's been no successful cyberattack on the United States' utility sector thus far, but experts say responding to those threats requires close coordination between the federal government and the power sector.
Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced the new office today, highlighting the DOE's "vital role in protecting our nation’s energy infrastructure from cyber threats, physical attack and natural disaster. .... This new office best positions the Department to address the emerging threats of tomorrow."
DOE's announcement said the new office will elevate its focus on energy infrastructure protection and will "enable more coordinated preparedness and response to natural and man-made threats."
That coordination is a key aspect of a biennial simulated attack called GridEx, run by the North American Electric Reliability Corp. The multi-day event is focused on creating stronger connections between emergency officials and the utility sector.
EEI President Tom Kuhn hailed the DOE's announcement, saying protection of the electric grid "is the top priority for America's electric companies and is a responsibility shared by both the electric power industry and the government."
A report from Accenture last year found almost two-thirds of utility executives globally believe their country faces at least a moderate risk of a cyberattack on the electric grid in the next five years. Just in North America, the number who say an attack is likely rises to 76%.
In 2015, a cyberattack on Ukraine’s grid caused widespread blackouts and raised fears that the U.S. could be vulnerable to a similar attack.
Kuhn said he expects CESER "will play an essential role in coordinating government and industry efforts to address evolving threats to the energy grid."