Cybersecurity, Emergency Preparedness, Emerging Issues in Security

National Governors Association Helping States Put Grid Security to the Test

The National Governors Association (NGA) has announced it will support four states—California, Connecticut, Illinois, and Utah—as they participate in the nationwide GridEx VI exercise, which reviews and tests energy emergency preparedness through a simulated coordinated cyber and physical incident on the electrical grid.

Scheduled for Nov. 16-17, the biennial exercise conducted by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) includes hundreds of participants from organizations representing industry, government agencies, and law enforcement. GridEx provides an opportunity to test existing plans, identify gaps, and increase collaboration and communication between the public and private sectors. NGA worked closely with NERC over the past year to facilitate connections between the states and energy sector partners to optimize the state experience in GridEx.

Supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response, NGA experts will work with the four governor-designated state teams to prepare for, participate in, and share lessons and best practices from the exercise via a pre-exercise conference call, participation in the exercise itself, state-focused after-action reporting, a post-exercise state energy security workshop, and ongoing technical assistance.

The previous exercise, GridEx V in 2019, had more than 7,000 participants from 526 organizations, including more than 42 state governments. Before, during, and after that exercise, NGA worked with Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho and Maryland on focused technical assistance to enhance the value of the exercise toward the states’ energy security planning efforts.

During GridEx VI in November, participants will work with their energy-sector partners to remotely (virtually) respond to the simulated events to determine how their organizations, including governors and states and territories, might respond if an actual event were to occur. Following the exercise, teams from California, Connecticut, Illinois, and Utah will develop action plans to address their specific challenges. The teams will receive technical assistance from NGA over the ensuing four to six months to help them implement their action plans and work with those states to disseminate lessons learned to fellow officials from states and territories.

“Through GridEx, states have the opportunity to learn about the myriad threats to energy infrastructure, strengthen their response capabilities, and—most importantly—to build relationships with key partners before a real emergency occurs,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Puesh Kumar of the DOE’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response.

“Californians know all too well the real-world impacts of power and grid disruptions on public health and safety particularly amongst our most vulnerable populations,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom. “We welcome the opportunity to work closely with our partners to jointly exercise our emergency response and recovery as part of the broader effort to keep our communities safe.”

“Cyberattacks are a growing threat that it’s incredibly important for us to prepare for to ensure that, among other things, our energy infrastructure isn’t compromised, particularly in times of need,” said Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont. He added his state is “no stranger to emergency preparedness, having conducted routine exercises for every situation from explosions, to hurricanes, to cyberthreats—and “that won’t stop anytime soon.”

“Responding to simulated physical and cyberattacks will better prepare us to respond to current threats and test the resilience of our infrastructure,” said Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker. “We applaud the work of the Department of Energy and share their mission.”

“We’re excited to participate in this simulation,” said Utah Gov. Spencer Cox. “Utah regularly practices a variety of disaster preparedness exercises that help us respond effectively when real disasters strike. This is an important chance to work with hundreds of partners, including other states, to make sure we’re prepared for threats to our energy grid.”