Cantwell, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Promote Critical Energy Grid Cybersecurity Investments

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined fellow Energy and Natural Resources Committee members Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Joe Manchin (D-WV), James Risch (R-ID), and Angus King (I-ME) in introducing legislation to further secure America’s electric grid from the growing threat of cyber attacks. The Protecting Resources On The Electric grid with Cybersecurity Technology (PROTECT) Act directs the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to study and then use the rate-setting process to encourage utilities to make investments in much-needed cybersecurity infrastructure. The legislation also authorizes $50 million annually to assist with cybersecurity technology deployment amongst public power utilities outside of FERC jurisdiction that are common in Washington state. 

“With millions of cyberattacks hitting our electricity grid every day, there is an urgent need to strengthen our nation’s cybersecurity defenses. This bipartisan legislation will help utilities make the cybersecurity technology investments necessary to ensure our lights stay on and economy is protected,” Cantwell said. 

Specifically, the PROTECT Act would: 

  • Direct FERC to initiate a rulemaking on advanced cybersecurity technology rate incentives, providing a mechanism for utilities to make the cybersecurity technology investments necessary to meet and exceed North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) standards.
  • Establish a grant program at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to encourage utilities unregulated by FERC, like electric cooperatives and municipal utilities, to also deploy advanced cybersecurity technology.

At an Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing earlier this week, Cantwell raised concerns about current grid vulnerabilities: “The grid is subject to millions of cyberattacks every day. In fact, earlier this year a scary threshold was crossed when an unnamed western utility became the first to report a malicious ‘cyber event’ that disrupted grid operations." 

Throughout her time in the Senate, Cantwell has prioritized promoting the reliability and modernization of our energy networks. She has repeatedly called for greater action and increased collaboration between the government, private sector, utilities, military, and academia to protect critical U.S. energy infrastructure from cyber attacks. Last year, she introduced legislation with Senator Manchin to bolster National Guard cybersecurity capabilities nationwide to better protect public and privately-operated infrastructure, including election systems, dams, and the electric grid. Earlier this week, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee unanimously passed complementary cybersecurity legislation authored by Cantwell to create new DOE demonstration programs to modernize the grid with storage, microgrids, and distribution-level investments in technology. 

The full text of the bill is available HERE.