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It’s Summertime and the Electrical Grid is Straining: Department of Energy Seeks to Secure It

August 11th, 2014 / By

Summer is the season of lightning strikes and soaring temperatures that darken our homes and turn our schools and work places into infernos. The AC runs night and day straining the grid to the breaking point in many regions. The last thing any of us needs is a sweltering home or office when the heat visibly pulses off the asphalt. Without electricity and cooled air in the summer, lives are at risk. Every year, people die due to heat-related electrical outages.

According to the CDC in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), heat waves kill more people than any other extreme weather event in the United States. In New York City alone, between 2000 and 2011, an average of 447 individuals each of those years were treated for heat illness, 152 were hospitalized, and 13 died from heat stroke. Chronic disease and lack of air conditioning were significant contributing factors.

What if these persistent and consistent challenges were compounded by a concerted attack that cut the electrical supply to the country’s most heavily populated cities?

Some in the most relevant industry and regulatory sectors seem to lack a sense of urgency toward such plausible eventualities. Countering these dismissals, fortunately, are numerous and powerful voices sounding off on our too vulnerable electrical grid.

Following a particularly punishing winter, energy providers from Pennsylvania and Maryland, where I live, to Texas and beyond have been assuring law makers, the media and anxious citizens of their readiness for the impending demand. In April, the U.S. Department of Energy, commendably looking ahead, issued guidance to industry for purchasing technologies to secure energy-delivery systems.

The Department’s Cybersecurity Procurement Language for Energy Delivery Systems guidance provides strategies to help the country’s energy sector and technology suppliers incorporate cybersecurity protections during product design and manufacturing. The guidance follows and builds on earlier reports, notably cyber-security models for the oil and gas sectors, intended to help businesses evaluate and improve cybersecurity through common standards and practices. The Department notes that more than 100 utilities have requested the tools laid out in Energy’s Cybersecurity Capability Maturity Models.

We at Ultra Electronic, 3eTI applaud the Department of Energy and the nation’s many energy suppliers that have demonstrated their willingness to embrace plausible worst-case scenarios. Through their efforts, our colleagues and loved ones may never know what almost hit them in the weeks ahead as they enjoy all the good things summer has to offer.

 

Related articles from the Department of Energy:

Department of Energy Launches Initiative with Industry to Better Protect the Nation’s Electric Grid from Cyber Threats

Securing the Nation’s Grid

Energy Department Develops Tool with Industry to Help Utilities Strengthen Their Cybersecurity Capabilities