PROTECT Act would increase industry cybersecurity investments, support advanced technology

April 30, 2021

U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), co-chair of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, announced that he has cosponsored the Protecting Resources On The Electric grid with Cybersecurity Technology (PROTECT) Act. The legislation enhances electric grid security by incentivizing electric utilities to make cybersecurity investments, as well as establishing a Department of Energy (DOE) grant and technical assistance program to deploy advanced cybersecurity technology for utilities that are not regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). In addition to Senator King, the legislation is supported by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), James Risch (R-Idaho), and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.).

“The energy grid is the fundamental foundation of 21st century American life, powering our homes, businesses, and critical infrastructure,” said Senator King, Co-Chair of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission. “However, our grid is dangerously vulnerable to cyberattacks, putting lives and livelihoods at risk. It is absolutely essential that we strengthen our energy grid’s cyber defenses to protect these key services – and to do so, we must work closely with the private sector, which owns much of America’s energy infrastructure. The PROTECT Act is an important, bipartisan effort to help address this challenge, strengthening collaboration between utilities and the federal government to bolster our grid’s cyberdefenses and protect the American people. When it comes to improving our cybersecurity, we don’t have any time to waste – let’s move this bill through Congress, quickly.”

Specifically, the PROTECT Act would:

  • Direct FERC to issue a rulemaking on rate incentives for advanced cybersecurity technology. This will enable and incentivize utilities to invest in new technologies that improve their cybersecurity defenses. 
  • Establish a grant and technical assistance program at DOE to deploy advanced cybersecurity technology on the electric systems of utilities that are not regulated by FERC. Examples include cooperatives and municipal utilities, as well as small investor-owned utilities that sell less than four million megawatt-hours of electricity per year.

Senator King has repeatedly stressed the importance of improving cybersecurity protections for the nation’s grid. Earlier this year, he and Senator Risch led a bipartisan letter voicing support for the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER) and urging the Department of Energy to maintain CESER’s current leadership structure. Senators King and Risch also authored the Securing Energy Infrastructure Actwhich was passed as part of the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act, and established partnerships to utilize engineering concepts to remove vulnerabilities that could allow hackers to access the grid through holes in digital software systems. In December 2019, King and Risch led a bipartisan group of senators in a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission emphasizing the dangers of incorporating equipment manufactured by Huawei Technologies Co. into the nation’s critical infrastructure.

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