July 23, 2020 update: The Energy Department laid out next steps for executing the White House’s Executive Order regarding the US Bulk Power System. The next steps include:
- DOE is creating a task force chaired by Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette to develop recommendations for excluding national security threats from the power grid
- DOE is requesting information from energy companies for identifying and mitigating vulnerabilities in the bulk-power system
- DOE is consulting with other agencies to develop regulations to implement the Executive Order
On May 1, President Trump signed an Executive Order, “Securing the United States Bulk-Power System.” The Executive Order authorizes U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette to work with the Cabinet and energy industry to secure America’s bulk-power system.
“Today, President Trump demonstrated bold leadership to protect America’s bulk-power system and ensure the safety and prosperity of all Americans,” said Secretary Brouillette. “It is imperative the bulk-power system be secured against exploitation and attacks by foreign threats. This Executive Order will greatly diminish the ability of foreign adversaries to target our critical electric infrastructure.”
The DOE states that the bulk-power system (BPS) is vital to the nation’s energy security, supporting national defense, emergency services and critical infrastructure. Each year the federal government spends millions of dollars on a wide range of BPS components. Current government procurement rules often result in contracts being awarded to the lowest-cost bids, a vulnerability that can be exploited by those with malicious intent, says the DOE.
Today’s Executive Order prohibits federal agencies and U.S. persons from acquiring, transferring or installing BPS equipment in which any foreign country or foreign national has any interest and the transaction poses an unacceptable risk to national security or the security and safety of American citizens.
From the Executive Order:
- The term “bulk-power system” means (i) facilities and control systems necessary for operating an interconnected electric energy transmission network (or any portion thereof); and (ii) electric energy from generation facilities needed to maintain transmission reliability. For the purpose of this order, this definition includes transmission lines rated at 69,000 volts (69 kV) or more, but does not include facilities used in the local distribution of electric energy.
- The term “bulk-power system electric equipment” means items used in bulk-power system substations, control rooms, or power generating stations, including reactors, capacitors, substation transformers, current coupling capacitors, large generators, backup generators, substation voltage regulators, shunt capacitor equipment, automatic circuit reclosers, instrument transformers, coupling capacity voltage transformers, protective relaying, metering equipment, high voltage circuit breakers, generation turbines, industrial control systems, distributed control systems, and safety instrumented systems. Items not included in the preceding list and that have broader application of use beyond the bulk-power system are outside the scope of this order.
Based on this information, it is Solar Power World’s understanding that residential and commercial solar equipment and projects are not influenced by this Executive Order. And since “equipment with foreign interest” is specifically mentioned, this most likely is directed toward the concerns raised over the use of Huawei equipment in the United States, among other companies. Huawei, a telecommunications company with ties to the Chinese government, began selling solar inverters to the United States in 2016. U.S. senators called for a ban on Huawei equipment in early 2019. The request was repeated in Dec. 2019.
Under this Executive Order, the Secretary of Energy is authorized to:
- Establish and publish criteria for recognizing particular equipment and vendors as “pre-qualified” (pre-qualified vendor list).
- Identify any now-prohibited equipment already in use, allowing the government to develop strategies and work with asset owners to identify, isolate, monitor, and replace this equipment as appropriate.
- Work closely with the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior; the Director of National Intelligence; and other appropriate Federal agencies to carry out the authorities and responsibilities outlined in the Executive Order.
A task force led by Secretary Brouillette will develop energy infrastructure procurement policies to ensure national security considerations are fully integrated into government energy security and cybersecurity policymaking. The task force will consult with the energy industry through the Electricity and Natural Gas Subsector Coordinating Councils to further its efforts on securing the BPS.
We will update this story as things are further clarified.