National Rural Electric Cooperative Association launches Essence real-time cybersecurity monitoring service

Published on March 01, 2023 by Chris Galford

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A new cybersecurity offering hit the field for utilities’ operations technology (OT) and information technology (IT) systems this week with the release of the real-time commercial program known as Essence.

Essence is a product of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). It is already used by 149 co-ops nationwide and can assist other utilities. It works as an AI-driven monitor, studying electric grids and other operational networks to provide real-time updates to owners and operators of critical infrastructure. This allows for quicker response to issues and improves physical security for electric system assets.

“As threats and threat actors evolve, electric cooperatives consistently work to improve their cyber defenses,” Jim Matheson, NRECA CEO, said. “That’s especially true as the nation’s electric grid becomes increasingly connected and digitized. Essence is field tested and proven to help electric cooperatives stay ahead of the curve.”

Essence was developed in collaboration between NRECA and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), as well as electric co-ops. The system is open to NRECA’s nearly 900 member co-ops, municipal and investor-owned electric utilities, natural gas utilities, water providers, and more.

“Identifying, troubleshooting, and responding to increasingly sophisticated cyber and physical attacks is a constant area of focus for the owners of critical infrastructure,” said Wayne McGurk, NRECA’s Chief Information Officer and Essence program lead. “Essence is uniquely positioned to empower America’s electric co-ops and other critical infrastructure owners across many sectors that can benefit from monitoring their OT and IT assets in real-time.”