On Nov. 15-16, more than 6,000 participants representing more than 400 organizations from across the electric power industry and federal and state governments participated in the North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s (NERC’s) energy grid security and incident response exercise, GridEd IV. This two-day exercise was designed to test coordination among industry and government stakeholders, as well as their cyber and physical security incident response protocols. The biennial exercise gives participants from the United States, Canada, and Mexico the opportunity to self-assess their emergency response and recovery plans through a simulated exercise that takes place across North America.
“Protecting the nation’s energy grid and ensuring a reliable supply of energy are top priorities for the electric power industry,” said Edison Electric Institute (EEI) President Tom Kuhn. “NERC's GridEx exercises offer an invaluable opportunity for industry and government at all levels to evaluate security and response plans. Electric companies have a strong record of working across the industry and with our government partners to enhance energy grid security and resiliency. Previous GridEx exercises have led to important changes in how the government and our industry protect the energy grid and respond to incidents affecting energy infrastructure.”
The electric power industry’s Cyber Mutual Assistance (CMA) program is one example of how GridEx has helped to improve the sector’s emergency response capabilities. During GridEx III in 2015, several industry executives identified the need for a program that would help electric companies restore critical computer systems following a major cyber incident. The CMA program—based on the industry’s traditional mutual assistance networks—was developed and launched by the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC) within a year. More than 130 entities—including investor-owned natural gas and electric companies, electric cooperatives, municipal utilities, Canadian electric companies, and RTOs/ISOs—now are participating in the program.
The ESCC serves as the principal liaison between leadership in the federal government and in the electric power sector, with the mission of coordinating efforts to prepare for national-level incidents or threats to critical infrastructure. Protecting the energy grid from threats that could impact national security and public safety is a responsibility shared by both the government and the electric power sector. The ESCC facilitates and supports policy- and public affairs-related activities and initiatives designed to enhance the reliability and resilience of the energy grid. These activities include all hazards, steady-state preparation, and emergency preparedness, response, and recovery for the nation’s electricity sector.