DOE to seek comments on critical power infrastructure

Source: Rod Kuckro, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Department of Energy will soon publish proposed regulations outlining how it plans to “receive, hold and share” critical electricity infrastructure information from utilities, a senior DOE official said yesterday.

The new rules are necessary as a complement to the Trump administration’s efforts to focus on maintaining and improving the resilience of the nation’s bulk power and distributions systems, said Catherine Jereza, DOE’s deputy assistant secretary for transmission planning and technical assistance.

The rules will also play into the department’s nascent development of a model of the North American grid to help cope with any number of deliberate or accidental threats to the nation’s power supply, Jereza said at a meeting of DOE’s Electricity Advisory Committee (EAC) in Arlington, Va.

Jereza came to DOE a year ago after a stint at the Edison Electric Institute where she worked on resilience issues.

She ended up delivering remarks to the EAC instead of her boss Bruce Walker, DOE’s assistant secretary for electricity, who was called at the last minute to a meeting on Capitol Hill.

“What DOE needs to do is establish our own regulation for how you handle that information,” Jereza said.

The electricity sector has made clear that it needs “certainty in how you’re going to handle this information in confidence and what the procedures are so that the information can be protected,” she said.

The proposed regulations are under review at the White House Office of Management and Budget and should be out for public comment in a month or so, she said.

The energy secretary has the authority to issues orders “for emergency measures to protect and restore reliability of defense critical electricity infrastructure,” Jereza said.

But, she said, “Do we have a model that can be useful at the North American level? No we don’t.”

To deal with grid disruptions today, “we try to do as much coordination as we can and share information,” she said.

But there “really is no way to do contingency analysis that would be way beyond” what is done now by DOE and the private sector, she said.

The model, which could take 18 to 24 months to complete, would be used to examine scenarios such as a coordinated cyber or physical attack hitting the East and West coasts at the same time, Jereza said.

The model would enable DOE to answer questions such as “what would that look like on the grid? How would you determine what the impacts would be?” she said.

The initial model will be a “static” one of the North American grid.

“But the end goal is to get it be a real-time type of model so if we’re in an emergency” grid operators can react quickly, she said.