By Edison Electric Institute President Tom Kuhn, American Public Power Association President and CEO Sue Kelly, and National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO Jo Ann Emerson
Providing safe, reliable and affordable electricity is the electric power industry’s top priority. As owners and operators of infrastructure that is critical to the nation’s security and way of life, electric utilities take their responsibility to protect the electric grid very seriously.
Cyber and physical attacks, as well as significant weather events, have driven much of the public discussion on reliability in recent years. But the notion that recent media reporting on last year’s incident at Pacific Gas & Electric’s Metcalf substation suddenly spurred the industry into action, or somehow enhanced the focus on grid security, is inaccurate. For decades, we have protected against physical security threats and more recently have worked in a coordinated effort across sectors and with government to address these evolving threats.
Coordination is essential. Just this past year, the industry partnered with the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Energy (DOE), the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to host a series of security briefings across the United States and Canada. These briefings focused on lessons learned from the Metcalf incident and ways to enhance security around critical substations.
While there is no single solution to protect the grid’s assets from every potential threat, we have forged a strong partnership with the government through the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC). The ESCC brings together senior Administration officials with utility executives to coordinate efforts to prepare for, and respond to, national-level incidents or threats to critical infrastructure.
The ESCC’s senior executives from investor-owned utilities, municipal systems and electric cooperatives, along with senior Administration officials, jointly have briefed congressional leaders on the grid’s resiliency and security. We will continue to engage policymakers as industry, NERC and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission work to finalize a physical security reliability standard, which will help protect the most critical assets of the bulk electric system.
The industry is continuously working to enhance grid security and resiliency. We take comprehensive and ongoing measures to address potential threats and to augment our ability to respond in the event of an incident — storing spare equipment and backup transformers, making security improvements and conducting briefings and exercises with law enforcement, and developing risk mitigation and incident response plans.
Providing affordable and reliable electricity in a safe and secure manner is our number one commitment to our customers. We will continue to make significant investments in grid security measures, enhance our successful mutual assistance networks, and build upon the partnerships we have forged with the government. Our work to secure the grid is never done, but the electric power industry remains vigilant in the face of evolving threats.
Edison Electric Institute President Tom Kuhn, American Public Power Association President and CEO Sue Kelly, and National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO Jo Ann Emerson