US signs off US$1m for electric grid security study


The US has approved a US$1 million smart grid study to determine how best to strengthen, modernise and upgrade the electric grid to withstand natural disasters and cyber attacks

In Washington, the US House of Representatives passed a provision last week requested by Republican Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. as part of the Energy and Water Appropriations Act of 2015, which earmarked the US$1 million for the smart grid study.

Congressman Payne, Jr., who represents a district of New Jersey, is an advocate for modernising the nation’s power grid and introduced the measure in response to the massive damage to the power grid caused by Hurricane Sandy.

Rep. Payne, Jr said: “In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc up and down the east coast, including in my home state of New Jersey. Hurricane Sandy carried an estimated price tag of anywhere between $40 billion and $52 billion. But this isn’t just an issue facing New Jersey.”

Electric grid upgrade

According to the Department of Energy, between 2003 and 2012, close to 700 power outages occurred due to weather related events, costing the nation an annual average of US$18 billion to US$33 billion.

Rep. Payne, Jr said: “Our nation’s electric grid needs an upgrade, and it is important we invest our resources into research now to save billions in recovery relief down the road.

“That’s why I am pleased that Congress has included a study I have proposed that would examine ways to strengthen and upgrade our electric grid system while improving our domestic energy capabilities.”

Strengthening smart grid

The news was well received by smart grid group Demand Response and Smart Grid Coalition (DRSG).

Dan Delurey, executive director of DRSG, commented: “The Smart Grid Study Act will fund necessary research into strengthening our nation’s electric grid.

“It will help shape the policies and strategies necessary to accelerate the transition that is underway towards a smarter, more resilient grid – one that can better respond to severe weather, integrate renewable energy and distributed generation, provide customers with information about their electricity usage, and make the electric sector more efficient overall.”

Threat of grid cyber attack

The study will look at ways to make the grid more resilient and energy efficient, as well as investigate how to boost grid cyber security and propose ways to better defend against these increasing intrusions.

The Committee report stated: “At a minimum, the report should include technological options for strengthening the capabilities of the nation’s power grid; a review of federal, State, industry, and academic research and development programs; and an evaluation of cyber security for energy delivery systems.

“Not later than September 30, 2015, the Department shall submit the findings to the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Senate.”

Security remit

Approval by the House of Representatives follows the passing of the SMART (Saving More American Resources Today) Grid Study Act introduced by Payne, Jr. by the House Committee on Homeland Security as an amendment to the National Cyber security & Critical Infrastructure Protection Act (NCCIP) in February 2014.

Elected to Congress in November 2012, Payne, Jr. is a member of the Committee on Homeland Security where he serves as Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications as well as the Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency.