Our nation is experiencing rapid transformation on the electric grid with an increasing number of distributed energy resources (DER). The way Americans produce and consume energy is shifting as we embrace a cleaner, more efficient, more sustainable future. Solar is the fastest growing and most affordable source of new electricity in America. This is borne out by the fact that, in the first half of 2022, photovoltaic (PV) solar installations accounted for nearly 40 percent of all new electricity-generating capacity added to the U.S. grid. What’s more, Americans are increasingly becoming active consumers, with many adopting “smart” energy devices like learning thermostats that can optimize usage of rooftop solar, electric vehicles (EVs), and more. As more distributed energy resources are integrated on the grid, it is critical we continue to maintain the reliability that customers expect. This means preparing to be resilient to all hazards – including cybersecurity, natural disasters, and other physical security events.

The Department of Energy’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER) is committed to enhancing the security and resilience of the grid today and to planning for the grid of tomorrow. As distributed energy resources, electric vehicles, and smart home appliances become more ubiquitous across the country, we’re focused on ensuring that cybersecurity is as fundamental as reliability and safety are in the electric sector today. This is particularly important given this historic moment, with once-in-a-generation investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act that will enable DOE to direct $62 billion dollars toward the clean energy transition currently in motion across all 50 states. These funds will give America’s private sector the keys to deploy the clean energy solutions that will combat climate change, strengthen our energy security, and make energy technologies like EVs and rooftop solar panels more resilient and affordable for American families. 

In support of this important work, CESER and DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) jointly released a new report called Cybersecurity Considerations for Distributed Energy Resources on the U.S. Electric Grid in October, which outlines recommendations for building DER systems that are cybersecure by design to better serve customers as America’s clean energy grid evolves. The report is meant to start the conversation on what industry and government need to be thinking about as we undergo this energy transition. The report makes several strategic recommendations, intended to serve as a jumping off point for continued conversation between government and industry. Chief among the recommendations noted in the report is a call for key players in industry and government to specify DER security requirements and to harmonize them for practical DER use in a risk-based and cost-effective manner. The report also recommends the implementation of good governance initiatives within DER entities and utilities and lays out potential activities to support this call to action.

As our nation’s clean energy industry continues to innovate and develop new products for deployment on the grid of the future, we have a responsibility to ensure security at every step of the process. This will require partnership with many stakeholders, including the utilities, state and local governments, and vendors. CESER stands ready to identify opportunities and to work with industry on implementation, and as a starting point co-hosted a webinar in early November 2022 with the DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office to share insights from the report. You can view the presentation slides and video recording of the webinar online.

Puesh Kumar
Director, Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response