New FERC Rule Includes Cyber Concerns for Power Grids

by Doug Chartier
FERC is looking to gather more information from utilities in order to gauge the threat of hacking that could compromise the U.S. power grid.

Federal agencies dealing in everything from consumer protection to securities have made moves in recent years to address cybersecurity standards. The watchdog for energy suppliers can be counted among them.

Amid rising concerns over cyber attacks on critical infrastructure, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a rule last month on cyber incident reporting for critical infrastructure protection. FERC, which regulates the sale of energy resources including electricity and natural gas, is looking to gather more information from utilities in order to gauge the threat of hacking that could compromise the U.S. power grid.

For those following FERC’s policy announcements in recent years, the emphasis on cybersecurity has seemed a familiar refrain from the agency.

“It’s kind of the next frontier of concern” for natural gas and electricity suppliers, said Raymond Gifford, a utilities attorney and partner at Wilkinson Barker Knauer in Denver and former chair of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. Gifford said the interconnectedness of modern utilities “is both a strength and a concern,” the latter being exposed when a weak link in the power grid fails, causing a cascade of outages or other service failures.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the August 20, 2018 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.