Updated: June 14, 2021
The electric power system is vital to the Nation’s energy security, supporting national defense, emergency services, critical infrastructure, and the economy. On January 20, 2021, Executive Order 13990, “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis” (E.O. 13990), suspended Executive Order 13920, “Securing the United States Bulk-Power System” (E.O. 13920), for 90 days. During that time, the Department and the Office of Management and Budget identified opportunities for change, increased awareness, and strengthened protections against high-risk electric equipment transactions by foreign adversaries while providing additional certainty to the utility industry and the public.
On April 20, the Department announced a new request for information (RFI), "Ensuring the Continued Security of United States Critical Electric Infrastructure." The RFI can be viewed on the Federal Register. The RFI is focused on preventing exploitation and attacks by foreign threats to the U.S. supply chain. The public comment period closed on June 7, 2021. The Department is reviewing comments now. All submitted comments are posted at the bottom of this web page as they are processed.
The RFI is part of a larger coordinated effort, including the recent “America’s Supply Chains” EO 14017, to develop a strengthened and effective strategy to address the security of the U.S. energy sector. Effective April 20, 2021, the Department revoked the December 2020 Prohibition Order to create a stable policy environment before the emergency declaration made by EO 13920 expired on May 1, 2021.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. Why did DOE issue the RFI?
Adversarial nation-state actors continue to target the nation’s critical infrastructure, with increasing focus on the energy sector. The Administration is addressing critical infrastructure security through various actions and considers the protection and resilience of energy infrastructure to be a part of that comprehensive strategy, including issuing this new RFI and revoking the prohibition order.
Q2. What is the goal of the RFI?
The Department is seeking information from electric utilities, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholders on various aspects of the electric infrastructure to ensure that the Department’s recommendations for a replacement executive order appropriately balance national security, economic, and administrability considerations.
Q3. Does DOE plan to issue new Federal rules related to the RFI?
The RFI will be used to inform other potential actions by the Department.
Q4. What’s included in the RFI?
The Department is seeking industry input in two areas. First, the Department asks for input on developing a long-term strategy that includes technical assistance needs, supply chain risk management, procurement best practices, and risk mitigation criteria. Second, the Department seeks input on the depth and breadth of a future prohibition authority.
Q5. DOE has stated that the threat to the electric power system and U.S. supply chain is severe, so why not keep the Prohibition Order in place?
The Department revoked the December 2020 Prohibition Order to create a stable policy environment before the emergency declaration made by EO 13920 expired on May 1, 2021. These actions are part of the U.S. Government’s larger approach to critical infrastructure and supply chain security, including the “America’s Supply Chains” EO 14017 and the Industrial Control Systems Cybersecurity Initiative.
Q6. Is DOE sharing comments submitted in response to the RFI?
Yes, the Department is posting public comments on this page as they are processed.
Q7. During the suspension of EO 13920 and the Prohibition Order, responsible utilities refrained from installing equipment specified in Attachment 1 of the Prohibition Order. Should utilities continue to follow this guidance?
The growing prevalence of essential electric system equipment being sourced from China presents a significant threat to U.S. critical infrastructure. Accordingly, the Department expects that while further recommendations are being developed, utilities will act in a way that minimizes the risk of installing electric equipment and programmable components that are subject to foreign adversaries’ ownership, control, or influence.