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Senators want FERC to protect critical infrastructure from Huawei threats

Senators want FERC to protect critical infrastructure from Huawei threats
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A group of senators is preparing to call on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to combat threats posed by using technology from Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.

"As you know, the Intelligence Community has issued repeated warnings to regulators and political leaders about the dangers associated with using Huawei equipment on the nation’s telecommunications network," according to a draft letter to FERC chair Neil ChatterjeeNeil ChatterjeeOVERNIGHT ENERGY: White House rescinds Trump proposal to restrict greenhouse gas consideration | Texas governor limits shipping natural gas out-of-state amid power shortages | Lawmakers clash over gun prohibition in Natural Resources committee room Almost 5 million without power as winter storm stresses grid in Texas, 13 other states Senate approves two energy regulators, completing panel MORE, who oversees the country's electrical grid.

"Congress and the Trump Administration have taken steps to eliminate Huawei products from national security sensitive applications, citing concerns with the company’s links to the Chinese Communist party, including its intelligence services," the letter continues.

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While it's known for manufacturing cellphones, Huawei also develops solar panel and energy storage technology.

Huawei said in June that it would exit the U.S. solar market, but Sen. Angus KingAngus KingSenate approves sweeping coronavirus measure in partisan vote The eight Democrats who voted 'no' on minimum wage Justice Democrats call moderates' votes against minimum wage hike 'unconscionable' MORE (I-Maine) and a handful of GOP senators are skeptical.

"While Huawei announced earlier this year that it intended to exit the U.S. solar market, there are no guarantees," the senators wrote in the draft letter.

"Huawei’s line of solar products relies on inverters – devices that manage and convert energy produced by solar panels – for use in homes and businesses," they added. "Huawei-produced inverters connected to the U.S. energy grid could leave it vulnerable to foreign surveillance and interference, and could potentially give Beijing access to meddle with portions of America’s electricity supply."

The lawmakers intend to request the administration ban Huawei's entry into the inverter market and request that FERC work with relevant agencies to guard against potential vulnerabilities.

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"In the meantime, we urge FERC and its new cybersecurity division to work closely with the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Energy and its National Laboratories, industry, utilities, and other federal, state and local regulators to curb threats and protect critical infrastructure," they wrote.

Experts have increasingly raised concerns about cyberattacks on the energy grid as offensive cyber capabilities have become more sophisticated while defenses have lagged.

Two bills on the issue have been advanced to the Senate floor this year: the Enhancing Grid Security Through Public-Private Partnerships Act and the Energy Cybersecurity Act.

The first, sponsored by Sens. Cory GardnerCory GardnerBiden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program Gardner to lead new GOP super PAC ahead of midterms OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule | Bureau of Land Management exodus: Agency lost 87 percent of staff in Trump HQ relocation | GM commits to electric light duty fleet by 2035 MORE (R-Colo.) and Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetSenators introduce bill creating technology partnerships to compete with China Democrats push Biden to include recurring payments in recovery package Democrats: Minimum wage isn't the only issue facing parliamentarian MORE (D-Colo.), would require the Department of Energy to establish and carry out a program to assess the cyber and physical security of electric utilities.

The second, sponsored by Sens. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellMurkowski votes with Senate panel to advance Haaland nomination Regulators keep close eye on Facebook's deal with Australia Video stirs emotions on Trump trial's first day MORE (D-Wash.) and Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichDemocrats worry Senate will be graveyard for Biden agenda Democrats offer bill on Puerto Rico statehood USPS adding up to 165K fuel efficient or electric delivery vehicles MORE (D-N.M.), would require the Energy Department to “develop advanced cybersecurity applications and technologies for the energy sector.”

Updated on Thursday at 2:46 p.m.