Senate Looks to Advance Legislation to Push Electric Grid Off-Line

Apr 6, 2018

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources recently passed new legislation by a voice vote to essentially push the electric grid offline in efforts to protect against future cyber-attacks. The Securing Energy Infrastructure Act, cosponsored by Senators Angus King (I-ME) and Jim Risch (R-ID) includes a key provision that implements a pilot program researching ways to create safety measures that do not rely on digital infrastructure and are “off-line.”  The Department of Energy (DOE) would collaborate with the private sector to identify and analyze the various ways the grid can be penetrated and provide appropriate offline measures to prevent these attacks from happening, as well as solutions that would remedy any negative effects.

As Senator Risch explained following the vote, “There is a clear, demonstrable need to develop techniques and technologies to better secure our grid from cyber vulnerabilities. As we reexamine our infrastructure security, this bipartisan approach would utilize the unique asses and expertise of our national laboratories to drive innovation.” The program would be overseen by the director of the Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence at DOE.

Inspiration for this legislation was drawn from the 2015 cyberattack on the Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. Following this attack, grid operators restored power using offline systems. An identical version of the bill was introduced in the House last year and referred to the Science, Space and Technology Committee, which has not yet taken it up. The language of the bill can also be found in the 2018 Intelligence Authorization Act, which has not yet been taken up by the Senate.

To view the full Securing Energy Infrastructure Act, click here: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/79