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A New Executive Order and DOE Request for Information

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Jeff Pack's picture
Senior Project Engineer POWER Engineers

Jeff Pack, CISSP, is an industry-experienced leader and technical expert in the cybersecurity field, including program development, consulting and operations. He currently serves as POWER...

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Timeline

In June 2020, I wrote an EnergyCentral article about Executive Order (EO) 13920 “Securing the United States Bulk-Power System,” that was issued on May 1, 2020 and attempted to explain the impact of the EO on electric utilities. Shortly after that article was published, the Department of Energy (DOE) issued a Request for Information (RFI) on July 8, 2020 for input from industry on current practices to identify and mitigate supply chain vulnerabilities. My conclusion was that the scope of the EO was too broad and would require prioritization of equipment. This conclusion was reinforced when DOE limited the scope of the EO to focus on electrical infrastructure that serves military facilities in the U.S. and territories.

On December 17, 2020, the Secretary of Energy issued a Prohibition Order that prohibited a limited number of utilities from purchasing and installing certain Bulk Power System (BPS) electric equipment, based on the information received from the RFI to implement EO 13920.

The Biden administration suspended the previously-issued EO 13920 on January 20, 2021 for 90 days and directed the Secretary of Energy and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to consider whether to recommend that a replacement order be issued.

On February 24, 2021, President Biden issued EO 14017 that requested a 100-day supply chain review for the nation. In particular, the 100-day review for the Secretary of Energy focuses on risks in the supply chain for high-capacity batteries (including electric vehicle batteries) and policy recommendations to address the identified risks. The EO also asks the Secretary of Energy to submit a report on supply chains for the energy sector industrial base within one year.

On April 20, 2021, the Secretary of Energy revoked the December 17, 2020 Prohibition Order and issued another RFI request on April 22, 2021 to complete the development of the one year report referenced in EO 14017 on supply chains for the energy sector.

Result

The result from all these EOs and RFI requests is a changing set of priorities and requests for the electric energy sector that keeps electric utilities wondering how to prioritize their limited resources. Changing strategic direction in each EO provides no effective actions or significant risk reductions for the Bulk Power System for the foreseeable future.

Recommendations

Electric utilities should continue to monitor the DOE for guidance related to EO 14017 and submit their ideas for improvement via the RFI process. The DOE needs to define a long-term strategy for increasing the relevant threat and operational information provided by the DOE as the nation’s energy sector risk management agency. Guidance from the DOE on supply chain procurement that matches the threat landscape identified by the intelligence community would provide an action item for utilities to improve, as well as approaches to help utilities identify and mitigate potentially compromised grid equipment already in use.

Summary

The updated EO is a more balanced approach for managing supply chain risks. However, we have lost an entire year of opportunities to take meaningful steps to reduce these risks. I would like to see the timeframes decreased for issuing these strategic direction documents so all stakeholders in the energy sector can focus assets to design and implement risk mitigation

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Thank Jeff for the Post!
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