Reps. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, and Jerry McNerney, D-Calif., reintroduced legislation this week to improve the United States’ electric grid security. The Cyber Sense Act and the Enhancing Grid Security through Public-Private Partnerships Act both direct the Department of Energy (DoE) to work with electric utilities toward the goal of improving security.

The Cyber Sense Act would direct the DoE to create a “Cyber Sense” program to identify and promote cyber-secure products to use in the bulk-power system. The DoE would create a product testing process and keep a database to track which products are secure and which pose cyber vulnerabilities to the electric grid.

As for the Enhancing Grid Security through Public-Private Partnerships Act, the bill would direct DoE to oversee and encourage public-private partnerships to improve the cybersecurity of electric utilities. The bill would enhance “sharing of best practices and data collection, along with providing training and technical assistance to electric utilities in order to address and mitigate cybersecurity risks,” according to a press release.

“The Cyber Sense Act and the Enhancing Grid Security through Public-Private Partnerships Act will collaboratively build a relationship between the DOE and utilities to strengthen our security efforts and keep us safe from domestic and foreign attacks,” Rep. Latta said. “I am proud Congressman McNerney and I are leading this effort to safeguard our aging grid so we can ensure our nation’s electric infrastructure is protected from bad actors.”

“The electric grid is the backbone of our economy and essential to almost everything in our lives,” added Rep. McNerney. “It’s imperative that we invest in grid modernization and security and address any vulnerable component or weakness that poses a threat to our physical and national security.”

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Reps. Latta and McNerney introduced identical legislation in the previous Congress. Both bills passed unanimously in the House, but never cleared the Senate.

The two representatives co-chair the Grid Innovation Caucus, which provides “a forum for discussing solutions to the many challenges facing the grid, and to educate members of Congress and staff about the importance of the electric grid with relation to the economy, energy security, and advanced technologies being utilized to enhance grid capabilities.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.