NASEO, NARUC launch initiative to diminish cybersecurity risks for solar energy

Published on June 18, 2020 by Chris Galford

© Shutterstock

The Cybersecurity Advisory Team for State Solar (CATSS) formed this week as part of a joint effort on behalf of the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) to reduce cybersecurity risks to solar energy developments.

Such developments were a direct result of the rapid growth in solar energy over the last few years. In this, the pair was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. With their resources combined, CATSS will collaborate with state, federal, and private sector sources to identify solar-cybersecurity programs and actions. The focus will be on state-level decision-makers, though representatives of the federal government and private industry will be tapped to help mitigate risks.

“As energy systems become more integrated and cyber-connected, their vulnerability to malicious actions grows,” California Energy Commissioner and Chairman of the NASEO Board of Directors Andrew McAllister said. “Solar technologies are no exception; new tools and a dedicated, multi-stakeholder approach should strengthen solar cybersecurity, and by doing so, enable states to make meaningful progress on climate and resilience goals.”

Rapid growth in the industry has and will change how the grid traditionally operated. With evolution comes growing pains, however, and both NASEO and NARUC agree that will take the form of greater cyber vulnerability. By proactively engaging those concerns, the pair believe potential dangers could be headed off before they become very real threats.

“Public utility commissions across the country have focused on the cybersecurity posture of utilities for decades, via state standards, management audits, critical infrastructure planning, and other initiatives,” said Commissioner Gladys Brown-Dutrieuille, chair of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and chair of the NARUC Committee on Critical Infrastructure. “An increasing amount of solar energy technologies connected to distribution grids presents new cybersecurity concerns that energy stakeholders across all levels of government and the private sector need to collectively address.”

CATSS will include a state-led advisory group and work to guarantee education, tools, and access to technical assistance.