Following a sweeping overhaul of energy innovation programs at the end of last year, the race is on to modernize America’s electricity grid. It is a multipronged federal effort that the Biden administration and Congress hope will speed the transition to a clean energy economy by accommodating more distributed and variable energy resources while improving reliability and increasing resilience.
But when it comes to the electricity grid, policymakers worry about more than just energy, climate, and weather. There are also security threats, including cybersecurity vulnerabilities. And it is with those in mind that the Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) this month launched a new public-private technology partnership called the Clean Energy Cybersecurity Accelerator.
The program will encourage the rapid development of cybersecurity technologies for the grid by bringing together cohorts of developers under an industry-led steering committee to share ideas, experience, and threat intelligence while they test and validate technologies in a lab setting. The plan calls for start-up groups to spend a 3 to 12 months developing ideas into proposals to address cyber threats. After that incubation period, NREL will assess each cohort’s proposal with its Advanced Research on Integrated Energy Systems (ARIES) cyber range, a simulation platform that will stress-test the ideas by subjecting them to realistic scenarios with real-time situational awareness and visualization to evaluate each of the cybersecurity solutions’ performance.
“The transition to a clean energy economy will require groundbreaking cyber solutions to strengthen America’s grid security, protect our energy infrastructure, and address the increasing threat of extreme weather events across the country,” said David M. Turk, Deputy Secretary of Energy.
The board advising the accelerator program will be made up of experts from the DOE Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER) and the DOE Office of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (EERE). A steering committee made up of experts from Xcel Energy, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, and other utilities will provide cost-sharing and strategic direction for the project.