EPRI Heads DOE's Cyber Security Collaborative

The U.S. Department of Energy has selected the Electric Power Research Institute's (EPRI) cyber security collaborative to assess and develop technologies, best practices, metrics and standards to protect the U.S. electric sector against cyber attacks.

The DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and the collaborative will negotiate a funding level for the public-private research initiative.

The EPRI-led collaborative comprises national research and commercial research laboratories, universities, and subject mater experts in key areas of cyber security. The participants bring diverse experience in technology, business, standards and policy. It was among 10 cyber security initiatives representing an investment of more than $30 million announced recently by U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

Among the collaborative tasks are:

  • assessing requirements and results developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), and other organizations;
  • reviewing power system and cyber security standards in meeting power system security requirements; and,
  • testing grid security technologies protocols using laboratories and pilot projects.

“It is essential that we protect the power system from cyber attacks,” said Arshad Mansoor, EPRI’s vice president of Power Delivery and Utilization. “The goal is to create a system that enhances the national grid, and especially to buttress its security and integrity.”

The selection of the EPRI collaborative is part of a long-term program that will ultimately lead to the creation of a National Electric Sector Cyber Organization (NESCO). This federal government-electric sector partnership will analyze the cyber security status of the nation’s transmission and distribution systems as smart grid technologies are incorporated to enable a low-carbon future.

“The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) brings knowledge gained from six years of cyber security vulnerability assessments on grid architectures in the energy sector,” said Rita Wells, energy sector lead of the Critical Infrastructure Protection & Defense Systems of the lab, a collaborative participant. “Emerging smart grid technologies are challenging traditional security and functional boundaries, and this is requiring us to pursue new approaches to cyber security.”

Up to $10 million is expected to be available over three years to establish NESCO, fund research and development, and set up administrative and operational functions. It is expected that NESCO will become self-sustaining within the three years, utilizing key findings from the collaborative.

“This collaborative effort will play a critical role in addressing cyber security for the nation's -grid”, said Sami Ayyorgun, senior scientist at Telcordia Technologies. "Our decades of experience in cyber security, communications, and networking will be critical to the project’s success.”

The EPRI-led collaborative comprises Enernex, Flowers CCS, Xanthus Consulting International, N-Dimension, Palo Alto Research Center, SRI, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory, Sandia National Lab, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Telcordia, University of Houston, Mladen Kezunovic (Texas A&M University), University of Minnesota Smart Grid consortium (including Adventium Labs and Honeywell), UCLA, UC Berkeley, Inguardians, and Arc Technical. Siemens and ABB are serving in industry advisory role in the collaborative.

EPRI conducts research and development relating to the generation, delivery and use of electricity for the benefit of the public. An independent, nonprofit organization, EPRI brings together its scientists and engineers as well as experts from academia and industry to help address challenges in electricity, including reliability, efficiency, health, safety and the environment. EPRI’s members represent more than 90 percent of the electricity generated and delivered in the United States, and international participation extends to 40 countries. EPRI’s principal offices and laboratories are located in Palo Alto, Calif.; Charlotte, N.C.; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Lenox, Mass.