Washington — The US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Department of Energy will look at ways federal and state regulators can foster investment in energy infrastructure security as the two agencies discuss cyber and physical threats to the power and natural gas sectors at a technical conference scheduled for March 28.
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An uptick in public disclosure of cyber attacks by the federal government and the US calling out of Russia for its role in a massive multi-year hacking campaign have put a brighter spotlight on cybersecurity risks facing the energy sector.
Highlighting the risks, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats recently described China as a growing threat to US critical infrastructure and flagged gas pipelines as a vulnerability illustrative of the broader threat.
"The threats against our nation's energy infrastructure, particularly the electric and natural gas sectors, continue to grow and the responsibility for protecting our energy infrastructure is shared across industry as well as states and the federal government," FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee said in a statement Monday.
Commissioners and senior DOE officials will meet at FERC's headquarters March 28 to lead discussions on current practices for mitigating and thwarting cyber and physical threats to energy infrastructure, and explore how the federal government and states can provide incentives and cost recovery to entice more spending on security in the electric and gas sectors, according to a FERC notice (AD19-12) Monday.
The commission notice said the high-level discussion of current and emerging threats would delve into "factors that the private sector considers when evaluating energy infrastructure security threats and vulnerabilities, as well as the availability of resources and challenges associated with evaluating these issues." Cyber and physical security best practices and mitigation strategies would also be addressed, the notice said.
As for planned talks on spurring investments to improve energy infrastructure security, the notice said the meeting would "concentrate on federal and state authorities' current cost recovery policies" and "look at how security investments are presently incentivized and what type of incentives would be most effective to facilitate security investment," be it accelerated depreciation, adders to return on equity or other mechanisms.
DOE Assistant Secretary of Electricity Bruce Walker said he looked "forward to building upon [the department's] partnership with FERC to jointly discuss and find solutions for the emerging threats facing our critical energy infrastructure."
Meantime, bipartisan legislation introduced January 31 would require DOE to carry out a new program working with other federal and state agencies and the energy sector to protect gas and hazardous liquid pipelines as well as LNG facilities from cyber and physical threats. Pipelines have been criticized for a lack of mandatory standards to safeguard against cybersecurity threats comparable to those set for the power grid.
FERC said more details on the co-hosted technical conference would be made available in a future notice.
-- Jasmin Melvin, firstname.lastname@example.org
-- Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh, email@example.com
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