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U.S. power grid needs cybersecurity protection: panel

Mon, 12/05/2011 - 7:19am
The threat of cyberattacks on the U.S. power grid should be dealt with by a single federal agency, not the welter of groups now charged with the electric system's security, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reported on Monday.

While acknowledging there is no absolute insurance against such attacks, the MIT researchers said a single U.S. agency would be better able to address the problem than the disparate federal, state and local entities responsible for various aspects of safeguarding the power grid.

In a report on the future of the U.S. electric grid, through 2030, the team recommended that the federal agency should work with industry and have the appropriate regulatory authority to enhance cybersecurity preparedness, response and recovery.

To cope with an expected increase in renewable sources such as wind and solar power, where energy is often generated far from the densely populated areas where it is used, the panel recommended granting more authority to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to site transmission facilities that cross state lines.

Other recommendations include:

- Utilities with advanced metering technology should start the transition to customer prices that reflect the time-varying costs of supplying power, to improve the grid's efficiency and make rates lower.

- The electric power industry should fund research and development in computational tools for bulk power systems, methods for wide-area transmission planning, procedures for responding to cyberattacks and models of consumer response to real-time pricing.

- To improve decision-making, more detailed data about the bulk power system, results from "smart grid" demonstration projects and other measures of utility cost and performance should be compiled and shared.

(Reporting by Deborah Zabarenko; Editing by Eric Walsh)

Posted by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor

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