May
12

Trump's Order to Secure Power System Met with Favor, Uncertainty in Utility Industry

Utilities remain uncertain on how the order intended to secure the bulk power system from foreign cybersecurity attacks will impact current projects and the installed infrastructure base. 

 U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on May 1, 2020, that establishes oversight of foreign-made equipment used in the United States bulk-power system. The order stated that Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette would assemble a task force to examine current procurement policies, identify threats to security, and establish risk-management protocols to inform future procurement.

This direction comes as little surprise to the power industry, following the Administration's previous crackdowns on telecommunications providers sourcing foreign-made systems and equipment deemed by the Secretary of Commerce as posing a national security risk.

The order will affect future power equipment purchases and potentially existing installed and commissioned components at the generation and transmission level. It builds on a July 2019 North American Electric Reliability Corp. request for bulk-power system asset owners to inventory telecommunications devices manufactured by Chinese technology companies, as part of an investigation into components made by Chinese firms Huawei and ZTE Corp.

"This is much broader; it reaches across the entire industry, not just the telecommunications infrastructure," said Jason Johns, an energy market attorney with Stoel Rives, LLP. "At the same time, it is particularly broad and imprecise in terms of its application."

Still, many electric utility industry stakeholder groups took a favorable stance toward the order. In a May 1 statement, Edison Electric Institute President Tom Kuhn said, "EEI and our member companies appreciate that President Trump, through his new Executive Order, continues to make energy grid security a priority for his Administration and our nation. We have long maintained that grid security is a shared responsibility, and addressing dynamic threats to the grid requires vigilance and coordination that leverages both government and industry resources."

"This is primarily about information systems," Johns said. According to a 2018 report by Protect Our Power, a not-for-profit organization focused on advancing cybersecurity in the U.S. power grid, the convergence of IT and OT poses the most significant threat to the security of bulk power. The report, co-authored by Ridge Global, states that "[IT/OT] integration can provide greater and more efficient ease of access for a wide array of malicious actors if modern IT/OT system components are not properly secured across their 'cradle-to-grave' life-cycle."

The report warns of the "globally distributed, highly complex, and increasingly interconnected set of supply chains," including products and services, that pose a risk at many points. Additionally, it states that "the process of maintaining hardware and updating or 'patching' software products that support IT/OT systems within the U.S. electric industry also represent critical points of vulnerability." Integration, maintenance, and updates pose potential areas of risk once installed.

"A lot of the connected devices [used by utilities] are assembled in the United States," said Jeff Pack, a senior product engineer and cybersecurity expert with POWER Engineers, "but each component will have something, whether it be memory chips, boards, or processing chips, that are manufactured in foreign lands." Pack indicated that this is an area that we can start to investigate relatively quickly.

The value this order will add to existing cybersecurity frameworks, namely NERC CIP, and particularly CIP-013, which establishes supply chain standards, is still unclear. "Perhaps after the Task Force is able to issue some guidance or directives, we will be able to determine if the Executive Order provides any risk reduction or resilience to the BPS beyond what the scope of CIP-013 provides," Pack said.

The degree to which the order will establish oversight and regulation of pre-installed infrastructure is also unclear. "It could pose substantial challenges to utilities if asset owners are required to rectify existing installed infrastructure that may have technological components embedded from one or more 'adversarial countries,'" said Chuck Newton, principle at Newton-Evans Research, who tracks power equipment supply chain.

At the bulk power level, experts say many utilities are already highly informed about the equipment that exists today. "Utilities are mindful of components and equipment, and where many of the underlying parts originate. Many utilities, especially larger ones, have done a lot of supply chain investigation," Pack said.

According to Newton, very few Chinese or Russian assets exist in the field today. "Utilities are not willing to invest in Chinese equipment at this time," he said. "Over the past several years there have been some new plants built to produce large and very large power transformers in the United States, which include SPX, Hyundai, VA/GA Transformers, and MEPPI. Subsequent M&A activity has expanded foreign ownership of [United States-based] plants."

Pack was optimistic that "If [utilities] are directed to take a risk-based assessment, a lot of existing equipment could be grandfathered in and left in place if due diligence was done at the time of procurement."

Uncertainty Rules

"Right now, the biggest impact is uncertainty across the industry as far as the impact it will have on transactions," Attorney Johns said. "However supportive the industry, clarity must be provided as soon as possible, long before the 150 days allotted to the [Secretary of Energy Brouillette's] task force."

This can create perplexity for anyone who is currently sourcing components. "What about those facilities that have already signed agreements before the May 1 order? How are those impacted? Utilities will struggle to meet their current timelines, and capital expenditure planning will be impacted," Johns said.

POWER Engineers' Pack points out that the devil is in the details. "Overall, the order is probably overdue, but right now there are a lot of missing details as to what types of assets, owned by who is involved and how [Secretary Brouillette's] task force starts to put its arms around [the order] and issue guidance or directives on how it will be implemented. If the task force takes a risk-based approach, we won't see as much disruption to the industry, but right now, we don't know."

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Apr
30

Schneider Electric's Innovation Experience: Live Weekly Series

Experience live video sessions with Schneider Electric experts for PDH credit!

We are happy to bring you Innovation Experience: Live on Engineering Tuesdays!
Stay up to date with the emerging market trends and technologies, discuss customers' challenges, and present our latest products and solutions. We are here to provide education that will help you solve your customers problems. These sessions offer engineers 1 PDH credit that will be shared with you on the Specifier Portal within one week of taking the session.


The purpose of these live webinars is to offer innovative learning along with live demos, tours, and more!

As the Edge moves from a buzzword to a tangible computing ecosystem that needs resources and tools, more and more questions arise around resiliency including physical security, staffing, standardization and integration, and monitoring and management of distributed IT equipment. In this session, with the power of Schneider Electric's Innovation Experience: LIVE experience, you will learn and about and see actual examples of how customers are approaching these rapidly evolving critical environments.

 May 5th

IEBC Experience: Live - Building resiliency at the edge 

As the Edge moves from a buzzword to a tangible computing ecosystem that needs resources and tools, more and more questions arise around resiliency including physical security, staffing, standardization and integration, and monitoring and management of distributed IT equipment. In this session, with the power of Schneider Electric's Innovation Experience: LIVE experience, you will learn and about and see actual examples of how customers are approaching these rapidly evolving critical environments.

 May 5th

IEBC Experience: Live - Building resiliency at the edge 

Digital and technology disruptions and transformations are happening everywhere including in commercial, industrial, and telco applications which are driving increasingly more compute to new locations away from traditional data centers. In this session, with the power of Schneider Electric's Innovation Experience: LIVE experience, we will review the wide variety of infrastructure architectures for the many unique environments encountered. A review of micro, row-based, pod-based, modular and more are reviewed.

May 19th
IEBC Experience:Live- Power Solutions for LV and MV Mission Critical Environments

Join John Gray on a journey into our Low and Medium Voltage Offers in Mission Critical Environments.Presenter: John Gray Power systems manager w guests.

 P3 strives to bring you quality relevant industry related news.

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Apr
23

Electrical Industry vs. COVID-19

See how product manufacturers, electrical contractors, industry associations, and individuals are helping during the coronavirus crises.

Innovative, intelligent, industrious, and inspirational are just a few words that come to mind when describing the army of individuals who make up the U.S. electrical industry. Undoubtedly, COVID-19 is presenting us (and most others across the nation) with unprecedented challenges. Instead of dwelling on the negative aspects of the pandemic, P3 is giving a well-deserved shout out to all those industry members who are helping to make a difference in the battle against coronavirus. Thank you!


Schneider Electric ensuring power continuity & matching employee donations

Schneider Teams in the field are working in record time to deliver and serve hospitals and grid infrastructure. They are joining forces with other industrial companies to manufacture ventilators. Schneider's main contribution is ensuring power and IT connectivity in US Field Hospitals in the fight against COVID-19.

Schneider Electric commits the first investment to relief funds and will match donations of employees. Stakeholders, shareholders, suppliers and clients, also have the opportunity to participate.

Eaton donating​ manufactured supplies, providing power management expertise​, & matching employee donations​

Eaton is using its manufacturing, producing a number of much-needed materials, including non-contact door openers and face shields, for healthcare workers. They have developed a touchless tools that helps medical workers avoid contact with surfaces. Eaton has reached out to academic institutes and industry partners to offer assistance in the production of ventilators and powered, air-purifying respirators. Eaton employees are gathering personal protective equipment, including safety glasses, gloves, goggles and N95 face masks available at their facilities and delivering these supplies to local collection sites. Eaton is also matching 2:1 any donation employees make to organizations providing COVID-19 relief.

Milbank Manufacturing

Milbank Manufacturing is producing personal protection equipment (PPE) to be used by first responders and medical care providers in the Kansas City metro area. The company used 3D printing capabilities to produce nearly 500 face shields, all of which were donated to health care workers.


Graybar Electric 

As a leading distributor that works in a critical infrastructure industry as defined by the Federal Government, Graybar is doing everything they can to maintain their normal work schedule in accordance with CDC guidelines around workplace health, safety and social distancing. Graybar has been helping in a number of ways, one of which involves donating essential supplies to hospitals.

MidAmerican Energy suspending disconnections, waiving late fees

MidAmerican Energy, a major utility serving Iowa, will be giving customers relief from delinquent payment shutdowns until further notice in response to hardships from the spread of the novel coronavirus. MidAmerican Energy said they would stop disconnecting customers for non-payment, as well as waive deposits and late fees.

P3 strives to bring you quality relevant industry related news.

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Apr
16

Do you know how to calculate branch-circuit loads?

Mike Holt, National Electrical Code (NEC) expert discusses how to calculate branch-circuit loads in his latest article:

Article 220 of the 2020 National Electrical Code (NEC) contains the requirements for calculating demand loads for branch circuits, feeders, and services. Table 220.3 lists references for branch-circuit calculations for specific equipment in Chapter 4.

Calculate your branch-circuit, feeder, and service loads using nominal system voltages, (e.g., 120V, 120/240V, 120/208V, 240V, 277/480V, 480V) unless other voltages are specified [Sec. 220.5(A)].

What if you do a calculation and get a fraction of an amp? You can round the answer to the nearest whole number, with decimal fractions smaller than 0.50 dropped [Sec. 220.5(B)].

Calculate the floor area from the outside dimensions of the building, dwelling unit, or other area involved [Sec. 220.11]. For dwelling units, the calculated floor area does not include open porches, garages, or unused or unfinished spaces not adaptable for future use.

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P3 strives to bring you quality relevant industry related news.

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Apr
09

Live Demos from the Schneider Electric Innovation Briefing Center

Starting in April, Schneider Electric will be hosting a series of interactive webinars broadcasted live every Wednesday from the Schneider Electric Innovation Experience Briefing Center in St. Louis. The purpose of these live demo webinars is to keep you up to date with emerging market trends and technologies, discuss customers' challenges, and present our latest products and solutions. Check the agenda from the link below and register for the webinars of your choice! 

​Date ​Topic
​April 1st, 2020 ​The Power of Data Center Modernization: Identifying & Capitalizing on this Opportunity
​April 8th, 2020​Considerations for Small to Mid-Sized Data Centers, Commercial Buildings and Industrial Facilities
​April 15th, 2020​Innovation at the Edge with Micro Data Center Solutions
​April 22nd, 2020​Why remote IT infrastructure management is critical to your business — and your customers
​April 29th, 2020​Battery Talk: VRLA vs. Lithium Ion
​May 6th, 2020​Industrial Solutions in Mixed & Converged IT-OT Environments
​May 13th, 2020​Monitoring and Dispatch + Netbotz
​May 20th, 2020​Data Centers: Row, Pod, Modular & Beyond

P3 strives to bring you quality relevant industry related news.

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