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The Intersection of Cybersecurity and Energy Efficiency Highlighted in Newly Funded DOE Program

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Amid the increasing digitization of utilities, data collection devices, and smart home products intended to increase efficiency on the consumer end, cybersecurity has been an area of rapidly growing focus in the industry. Many conferences, white papers, and initiatives have been pushing the need for broad cybersecurity in the energy sector, but recently the U.S. Department of Energy issued an announcement to fund a cybersecurity initiative specifically aimed at energy efficient manufacturing. 

Specifically, DOE announced $70 million going for "a Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Institute to develop technologies that will advance U.S. manufacturing competitiveness, energy efficiency, and innovation...focusing on early-stage research for advancing cybersecurity in energy efficient manufacturing." I found this focus on cybersecurity of energy efficient manufacturing particularly intriguing, though I wasn't exactly sure at first glance what it was meant to do. The press release from DOE notes, though, that manufacturers across industries (both energy technologies like EVs, solar panels, and wind turbines, as well as general manufacturing) who are looking to improve the energy efficiency of their processes can see 15% improvement simply by adopting automated controls and sensors. However, a large impediment to manufacturers making such changes appears to be the vulnerability across the supply chain that such digital tools can introduce-- both creating real cybersecurity threats and also scaring manufacturers off from adopting the technologies thanks to perceived cybersecurity threats.

Image result for DOE cyber security

According to Secretary of Energy Perry: 

"Improved cybersecurity can reduce risks as well as catalyze adoption of more energy efficient technologies in the manufacturing industry. This Institute will conduct early-stage research to help U.S. manufacturers remain resilient and globally competitive against cyber attacks."

What do you make of this initiative-- is this type of funding overdue? Surprising to you? Going to make a difference? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Matt Chester's picture

Thank Matt for the Post!

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Nathan Wallace, PhD's picture
Nathan Wallace, PhD on April 19, 2019

It seems like this FOA has a really large scope. I've seen a number of these types of federally funded projects result in some success with the creation of new technologies. However, these technologies are typically left on a shelf as most asset owners lack the resources to purchase, integrate, and maintain the technology. 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on April 21, 2019

Thanks for the note, Nathan. What do you think would be the solution to forming these programs in a way so that technologies don't get left on the shelf?

Nathan Wallace, PhD's picture
Nathan Wallace, PhD on April 27, 2019

This is a really good question and one I honestly don't have an answer for. One challenge is that utilities are slow to advance and the smaller more resource-constrained utilities like municipalities and co-ops move even slower. Maybe one option would be a federal grant for procuring and installing the tech. Also, I think part of the challenge is how we perceive the ideal security solution. Typically the perception or hope of new technology is that it should be a plug and play device that will solve most of the security challenges. However, if we look at all other aspects of the power grid everything is engineered and programmed for the application. 

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