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US, Canada release joint strategy on grid security

The U.S. and Canada released a joint electric grid security strategy Dec. 12 that includes enhanced information sharing and mutual assistance in recovering from physical and cyber incidents.

The broad, 24-page plan stemmed from a joint energy and climate commitment that U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made in March. The strategy was developed by representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Homeland Security, as well as Natural Resources Canada and Public Safety Canada.

The plan's three high-level goals are to protect today's electric grid and enhance preparedness; manage contingencies and enhance response and recovery efforts; and build a more secure and resilient electric grid.

To achieve the first goal, the U.S. and Canada will pursue enhanced information sharing between government and industry partners in both countries and create "clear roles and responsibilities for communicating risks and other information to each other and the public." The two countries will seek to coordinate and improve forensic, law enforcement and protection capabilities related to physical and cyber threats. Furthermore, the first goal will involve protecting against major isolated and "cascading" events; aligning standards, incentives and investments with security goals; and reducing vulnerabilities from interdependencies between both countries' grids and other critical infrastructure.

The second goal will center on improving emergency response and continuity in the event of grid setbacks. The U.S. and Canada pledged to work together to more easily identify the location of problems and reroute power around affected areas, as well as support research and development to improve grid monitoring. The two countries will also seek to "encourage the expansion" of public and private resources for response and recovery from major grid outages. The joint strategy called for mutual assistance for recovering from disruptions caused by physical and cyber threats, including looking at the efficiency of current mutual assistance programs.

The third and final pillar of the strategy is to build a more advanced grid for the future. To achieve that goal, the joint plan called for the U.S. and Canada to manage risks from relatively new electric grid technologies and designs, such as distributed generation. The two countries must also integrate security and resilience tools into planning, investment and policy decision-making, including by finding ways to "harmonize security and reliability regulation." To build a better grid, the strategy also called for the two countries to understand and mitigate risks from climate change and develop a highly skilled workforce that can deal with new and emerging threats.

The recommendations will be implemented in accordance with forthcoming U.S. and Canadian action plans, the report said. Much of the implementation, however, would have to fall to incoming GOP President-elect Donald Trump, with Obama leaving office after Trump's inauguration Jan. 20. Trump has vowed to make cybersecurity one of his top priorities in office and proposed having the U.S. Department of Justice form a joint nationwide task force to "crush" cyber crime.