Murkowski Introduces Bill to Protect America’s Electric Grid

Increases Industry Investments, Supports Advanced Cyber Technology

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)—with colleagues Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), James Risch (R-ID), Angus King (I-ME), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV)—reintroduced S. 1400, the Protecting Resources On The Electric grid with Cybersecurity Technology (PROTECT) Act, which enhances electric grid security by incentivizing electric utilities to make cybersecurity investments. The bill also establishes 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).

“The threat of cyberattacks by foreign adversaries and other sophisticated entities is real and growing and COVID-19 has not helped reduce the threat of cyberattacks on America’s networks, including our energy infrastructure. In Alaska where energy prices are already amongst the nation’s highest, the cost for small co-ops to properly secure their cybersecurity needs is continuing to rise. The federal government and industry have a shared responsibility to enhance the cybersecurity posture of electric utilities, municipal utilities, and electric utility systems owned by electric cooperatives to protect our electric grid from cyberthreats.” said Senator Murkowski. “The PROTECT Act will help ensure utilities across America, including municipal utilities and electric cooperatives, are able to continue investing in advanced, cutting-edge cybersecurity technologies, while also strengthening the partnership between private industry and the federal government.”

“The reliability and resilience of our electric grid goes hand-in-hand with the economic and national security of the United States, so it’s critical that we’re two steps ahead in planning for unexpected events and threats. The PROTECT Act would create incentives for utilities to enhance their cybersecurity efforts and increase their resilience to attacks. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this common sense, bipartisan legislation to ensure we’re keeping our grid – and our nation – safe,” said Senator Manchin, Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“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.”

“SolarWinds once again demonstrated that America’s adversaries are bent on penetrating our cyber defenses,” said Senator Risch. “The PROTECT Act will incentivize electric utilities to adopt and integrate advanced cybersecurity measures to protect our critical energy infrastructure from incursions and potentially devastating cyberattacks.”

“Due to the growing threat of cyberattacks to our nation’s critical infrastructure sectors, the need to establish strong cutting-edge technologies to protect our electric grid could not be more clear,” said Senator Rosen. “A successful attack on our grid could spell disaster for countless Americans in regions all over the country. In order to prevent such a threat from occurring, I am proud to work alongside Senator Murkowski and this bipartisan team of colleagues in introducing legislation to keep America safe and running by strengthening the cybersecurity protections of our energy infrastructure.”

“Nushagak Electric & Telephone Cooperative (Nushagak) is in strong support of the PROTECT Act.  As the power provider for the Dillingham area of southwest Alaska, Nushagak both generates and distributes electricity to our communities as well as the world-class Bristol Bay fishery, one of Alaska's major industries. Currently, advanced cybersecurity technology is too expensive and complex for our small, member-owned utility. The PROTECT Act will make this vital level of security a reality,” said Robert Himschoot, CEO and General Manager of the Nushagak Cooperative.

Bill Details:

  • Directs 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. 
  • Establishes 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.

Click here for the bill text.

Related Issues: Defense, Energy