NRECA is asking the Biden administration to involve vendors of equipment to utilities that operate critical electric infrastructure and to focus on the bulk power system as new safeguards are considered for the national grid.
“We urge the Department of Energy to directly engage with the equipment vendors to address any concerns the department may have about risks in the supply chain," said Stephanie Crawford, NRECA senior regulatory manager.
“Vendors have direct knowledge of the country of origin for their equipment down to the sub-component level. We also encourage DOE to ensure that any new grid security measures be risk-based, clear, prospective, scalable and cost-conscious to ensure continued electric reliability for our members and the communities they serve."
DOE, at the direction of the White House, is preparing a long-term, far-reaching strategy to protect the grid, possibly through new authority over distribution facilities and supply chain rules to protect against cyber threats.
NRECA made its arguments in comments filed June 7 with the American Public Power Association, the Large Public Power Council and the Transmission Access Policy Study Group.
NRECA and the other associations also urged DOE to consider the cost of any directives and their impacts on the country's economic health, particularly in rural America.
“This is especially important to consumer-owned, not-for-profit public power utilities and rural electric cooperatives, who are owned by the consumers they serve and must bear any new costs imposed by new requirements," they wrote.
The comments underscored that the government's focus should be on the bulk power system because of its national implications on public health and safety rather than distribution networks with more localized connections.
DOE is expected to review all the comments received to determine a strategy to protect against any supply chain risks in the utility sector. The department has not offered a timeline for a final plan, but action could come this summer.
Explore NRECA's resources on cybersecurity.