Moniz calls for increased funding for energy emergency response

By Jodi Delapaz

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WASHINGTON, Sept. 1, 2016 - Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz called for increased investments in the ability to respond to energy emergencies during a recent field hearing of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in Seattle. In his testimony, Moniz stressed the need for “comprehensive and coordinated response capabilities in the face of increasingly integrated energy systems and an evolving threat environment.”

Moniz detailed the Energy Department's increased role in emergency response coordination as it relates to recovery from natural and manmade events, such as severe weather, natural disasters, electromagnetic pulses (EMPs), the impacts of climate change, aging infrastructure and cyber threats.

“The Department of Energy uses its expertise in transformative science and technology solutions to support and enhance our nation's emergency response capabilities. Through our private and public partnerships, we apply these solutions to prepare for emergencies, mitigate risks and expedite restoration and recovery from incidents impacting the energy sector,” Moniz said. “Looking ahead, Congress will be a key partner in ensuring that we strengthen our prevention and response capabilities.”

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Moniz cited the April 2015 Quadrennial Energy Review (QER), which concluded that in key areas, the country's energy and related infrastructures have not kept pace with changes in the volume and geography of oil and gas production, and that integrated North American electricity grids and energy markets have increased the need for joint grid security strategies.

“The U.S. has new responsibilities for protecting LNG export supply chains. We also remain large net crude oil importers but now are large net oil product exporters as well as exporters of some crude oil; thus, we remain directly tied to world oil markets and global oil price volatility,” said Moniz.

Allies and other key partners have significant energy supply and infrastructure vulnerabilities, as was exposed by the 2014 Russian incursion in Ukraine, said Moniz. In response to this aggression, the U.S. and its G-7 partners developed a set of broad and collective energy security principles, Moniz said, of which two are especially important:

·         Putting in place emergency response systems, including reserves and fuel substitution for importing countries, in case of major energy disruptions; and

·         Improving energy systems resilience by promoting infrastructure modernization and supply and demand policies that help withstand systemic shocks

“Intentional, malicious challenges and natural threats to our energy systems are on the rise. The manmade threats continually increase in sophistication,” said Moniz. “Our energy infrastructures are vulnerable to such threats, are aging, and increasingly interdependent and reliant on electricity. The electricity system, end-to-end, is the focus of the next major installment of the Quadrennial Energy Review, targeted for late this year.”

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In a related announcement, the Energy Department says it will provide up to $34 million in funding, subject to appropriations, for 12 projects representing energy sector organizations in nine states. The funds will come through the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability's Cybersecurity of Energy Delivery Systems (CEDS) program, “in order to better harden energy systems against attacks.”

The projects will include cybersecurity education for energy sector professionals and research and development of tools to strengthen protection of the nation's energy infrastructure from cyberattacks. A list of the award selections is available here.

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