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Bipartisan Policy Center forms cybersecurity group

Trio of heavyweights is Gen Hayden, Hébert, Tierney

Rockville, MD (May 23, 2013) -- Former FERC Chairman Curt Hébert gives Smart Grid Today -- the leading independent, daily, professional news journal of the smart grid industry -- insight into the new Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) project aiming to develop a clear framework for public-private cooperation on grid cybersecurity. Smart Grid Today publisher Modern Markets Intelligence, Inc. is sharing it here, free of charge.

The story has been slightly edited for this format and is included in its entirety below and at smartgridtoday.com/cybersecuritygroup0513.

A new Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) project aims to develop a clearer framework for public-private cooperation on grid cybersecurity than the patchwork currently in place, Curt Hébert, a former FERC chairman who is co-chairing the project, told Smart Grid Today.

QUOTABLE: At the end of the day, someone has to have ownership of these [cybersecurity] issues. Who in fact is going to do that is not clear at this point. -- Curt Hébert, co-chair of the Electric Grid Cybersecurity Initiative, in an interview with Smart Grid Today

The "Electric Grid Cybersecurity Initiative" set up by BPC yesterday will tackle issues such as the sharing of intelligence on cyber threats and vulnerabilities with power firms -- and customer data privacy.

"I think many would argue this is something that someone else should have spent much more time on already. And so I think the time is now. If not, certainly yesterday," Hébert told us. The grid is vulnerable to the point of it being "not a matter of if but when" cyber attacks occur, he added.

Also chairing the initiative are retired Gen Michael Hayden and Susan Tierney. He is a principal at the Chertoff Group, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency. She is a managing principal at Analysis Group, former assistant secretary for policy at DOE and a Massachusetts public utility commissioner.

The three will consult with an advisory group of industry experts, former government officials and other cybersecurity specialists, BPC said. The think tank plans to hold a public workshop this summer with the co-chairs, advisory group and other relevant experts -- and release recommendations for policymakers in the fall.

"Someone of the stature of General Hayden brings a different level of attention" to grid cybersecurity, said Hébert.

Jurisdictions 'loom large'

Hébert and Tierney's experience as state commissioners -- in Mississippi and Massachusetts, respectively -- will help the project keep in mind state sensitivities to federal encroachment on their regulatory authority, Hébert said. "Jurisdictional issues will always loom large in any discussions we have," he added.

The BPC project will hear from state commissioners to "understand exactly where they are, what rules they may have in place now, what ideas they may have that, quite frankly, no one has considered and should consider," Hébert said.

He also expects to have open lines of communication with FERC throughout the project, adding that active participation from those in office is important "because this is real-time information that they bring to us."

NARUC President Philip Jones in March expressed concern over federal overreach into distribution-side cybersecurity (SGT, Mar-21).

What is federal role?

BPC's announcement of the project mentioned President Obama's recent executive order to establish voluntary cybersecurity guidelines and to encourage information-sharing between private firms and the government. Verizon reacted to Obama's order by urging the administration "to work with Congress to achieve the rapid enactment of bipartisan information-sharing legislation" (SGT, Feb-14).

The US House passed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing & Protection Act (CISPA) in April, BPC noted. The version of CISPA that passed in April was similar to the one voted through by the House a year earlier (SGT, Apr-23).

"Nevertheless," the group added, "concern lingers that federal agencies will establish uncoordinated or inconsistent policies to address specific cyber threats in different sectors."

QUOTABLE: FERC already has standard-setting authority through the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) for large portions of the electric grid, but its authority doesn't cover local distribution systems, which are regulated by states. One key question is whether additional mandatory standards are necessary or whether gaps can be filled through a system of voluntary standards and incentives. -- Hébert, in prepared remarks

The collaboration between FERC's nascent Office of Energy Infrastructure Security (OEIS) and utilities and state commissioners remains ad hoc and has yet to develop into a regular forum for addressing cybersecurity, FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff told Smart Grid Today in March in an exclusive interview (SGT, Mar-28).

Tierney cites key questions

"The electric power sector has already made important progress in addressing cybersecurity," Tierney said yesterday in prepared remarks. "Given how important electric system reliability is to the nation's economy, along with its interdependence with other sectors, such as telecommunications and natural gas pipelines, the electric system makes it an interesting case study for cybersecurity governance.

"There are important regulatory and other policy questions related to who invests in and pays for electric grid cybersecurity protections," she added.

ABOUT SMART GRID TODAY

SMART GRID TODAY'S MISSION is to deliver daily, unbiased, comprehensive and original reporting on emerging trends, applications and policies driving the modern utility industry -- in a signature format that features highly concise and easy-to-understand news copy based on trusted reporting, exclusive interviews, informed analysis and strategic insights that our subscribers rely on to succeed every business day. Smart Grid Today is published 247 times a year by Modern Markets Intelligence, Inc. (MMI), publisher of independent trade news for the evolving energy industry of the 21st century. It is located in Rockville, Md. Sam Spencer founded MMI in 2009 after writing, editing, marketing, publishing, running and inventing trade news publications and related products for over 20 years.

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Modern Markets Intelligence, Inc.
888-907-1113
brett@mminews.com

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