Department of Energy Awards $30 million in Cybersecurity Grants

By Steven Caponi

U.S. energy officials recently announced that eleven projects will share $30 million in awarded grants to fund the development of new technologies that will strengthen and better protect the electric grid and oil-and-gas infrastructure from potential cyber attacks.

With support from the Department of Energy (“DOE”), energy sector organizations in California, Georgia, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington will develop new systems, frameworks, and services to advance the DOE’s vision of more resilient energy delivery control systems.

The grants are the most recent effort by the DOE to help secure the nation’s critical energy infrastructure from cybersecurity threats.  According to the DOE, it has invested more than $100 million in cybersecurity research and development through awards and funding provided to industries, universities, and national laboratories since 2010.

Combined, the eleven projects will advance expertise in power system engineering and cybersecurity, with a focus on testing new products to demonstrate their effectiveness and interoperability.  The projects comport with the DOE’s cybersecurity Roadmap to Achieve Energy Delivery Systems Cybersecurity, which represents the joint efforts of the energy sector in coordination with the DOE.  The Roadmap represents a strategic framework for the design, installation, operation, and maintenance of a secure energy delivery system capable of sustaining a cyber incident.

The eleven projects selected for grant funding are:

ABB, Inc. – Cary, NC
DOE share: $ 2,765,733; Recipient share: $ 936,793
ABB will develop a system that allows substation devices to work together to validate the integrity of communications, such as commands to change a protective relay’s configuration, and assess the potential impact on grid operations.

Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. (“EPRI”) – Palo Alto, CA
DOE share: $ 1,524,959; Recipient share: $ 529,384
EPRI will develop a framework that allows utilities to centrally manage the remote configuration of their energy delivery system devices—regardless of vendor or age— more securely.

Foxguard Solutions, Inc. – Christiansburg, VA
DOE share: $ 3,298,893; Recipient share: $ 1,003,399
Foxguard will develop a service that allows utilities to simplify the process of keeping up-to-date with the most current firmware and software patches and updates.

Georgia Tech Applied Research Corporation – Atlanta, GA
DOE share: $ 3,283,063; Recipient share: $ 1,726,000
Georgia Tech Applied Research Corporation will develop a technology that evaluates energy delivery system control commands to anticipate their impact on power grid operations and, if needed, implement cybersecurity responses to prevent disruptions.

Grid Protection Alliance – Chattanooga, TN
DOE share: $ 2,213,000; Recipient share: $ 637,000
The Grid Protection Alliance will develop an architecture that enables more secure substation communications for data generated by legacy or modern energy delivery devices.

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (“NRECA”) – Arlington, Virginia
DOE share: $ 3,620,725; Recipient share: $ 1,137,367
NRECA will develop a network that allows utilities and small electric cooperatives with limited resources to centrally manage their networks more securely.

Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc. – Pullman, WA
DOE share: $ 2,094,599; Recipient share: $ 845,140
Schweitzer will develop an integrated cyber-physical access control system that simplifies the process of managing access to energy delivery facilities.

Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc. – Pullman, WA
DOE share: $ 3,771,371; Recipient share: $ 1,068,807
Schweitzer will develop a radio platform for more secure “last mile” wireless communications used with remote energy delivery infrastructure, such as distribution substations.

Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc. – Pullman, WA
DOE share: $ 3,892,170; Recipient share: $ 1,248,207
Schweitzer will develop software that allows utilities to centrally manage their local area networks more securely, providing real-time awareness of cyber activity and rerouting network traffic in response to cyber intrusions.

TT Government Solutions, Inc. – Red Bank, NJ  
DOE share: $ 956,560; Recipient share: $ 324,205
TT Government Solutions will develop a technology that analyzes and visualizes smart meter wireless communications to quickly detect unusual behavior that could suggest a cyber attack.

Viasat, Inc. – Carlsbad, CA
DOE share: $ 3,250,000; Recipient share: $ 3,301,163
Viasat will develop an architecture that gives utilities awareness of the status of their energy delivery systems’ cybersecurity, and allows them to automatically respond to cyber intrusions as predetermined in the utility’s cybersecurity policy

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