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Breaking Down Silos: 2024 Energy Transition Summit

The year 2035 is closer than it seems.

Achieving a carbon-free energy sector by the 2035 deadline, not to mention reaching a net-zero emissions economy by 2050, won't be accomplished by any single person, government agency, institution, or company. Meeting these ambitious goals will only be possible through robust partnerships to modernize and transform our electrical grid. As new grid concepts and systems are being implemented, we must not disrupt the current system's ability to deliver power to hundreds of millions of Americans. 

Managing this transition in an efficient and secure manner requires collaboration, sometimes between stakeholders who traditionally don't have much interaction. That pairing and cooperative spirit was on full display in early February, at the Energy Transition Summit.

The summit, co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Grid Modernization Initiative (GMI) and DOE Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response, was a first-of-its-kind conference bringing together experts who are imperative to meeting our nation's clean energy goals. Grid modernization and cybersecurity leaders from across the energy sector met to break down barriers and unearth common ground across fields. As Deputy Secretary of Energy David Turk told the roughly 500 attendees during the opening plenary, working together, now and moving forward, is no longer optional: At the rate that the grid is evolving, it's mandatory.

"To reach net-zero by 2050, we need to pick up the pace,” Turk declared. “We need to transform the grid while protecting it."

Two Conferences in One

During the summit, GMI generated input to develop a roadmap for the grid of the future: delivering a resilient, reliable, secure, flexible, sustainable, affordable, and equitable system. The clean energy cybersecurity conference's theme was fostering collaborative security solutions to enable a more resilient and equitable energy transition.

The third aspect of the summit helped foster new relationships. The joining of these two conferences provided a collaborative workspace for both sides to learn from one another and identify opportunities to bolster each other's efforts. Over four days, attendees had access to 40 working sessions covering topics ranging from supply chain risks to workforce development to flexible power generation to energy markets and regulations. Additionally, the event featured a cybersecurity-themed escape room and CyberStrike STORMCLOUD workshops that trained participants to prepare for a cyber incident.

"At its core, the electric power system relies on the coherent management of interconnected engineering systems and business structures," said Gil Bindewald, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for DOE's Office of Electricity.  "Rapid technological advancements, evolving stakeholder relationships, and varying operational contexts highlight the need to broaden the traditional notion of public-private partnerships."

The Challenge: Meeting Growing Energy Demands

DOE is leading national efforts to deliver a grid that is not only clean and affordable, but also reliable and resilient. This has encouraged residents to purchase modern devices like smart thermostats, fleet managers to adopt electric vehicles, and utilities to interconnect off-shore wind. End-users understand the cost-saving opportunities, conveniences, and energy security these technologies can deliver. The inherent fluctuations with new supply and load patterns rely on a modern grid that communicates energy data and signals.  

These increasingly connected systems on the grid can become a potential access point for cybersecurity failures, accidental or intentional. Yet, this connection creates an opportunity for increasing our electric system's security and resilience. Leaders in grid modernization and cybersecurity sectors acknowledged the value of having a range of stakeholder experts come together to exchange ideas, share perspectives, and lay the groundwork for robust collaborations.

"DOE was excited to bring together a broad set of stakeholders to discuss the Grid Modernization Initiative in parallel with deep discussions on cybersecurity. We are looking forward to working through the next phase of engagement with our partners," said Kevin Lynn, EERE's Director of Grid Integration. 

Based on the success of the 2024 Summit, organizers are continuing to coordinate and anticipate meeting again in the near future. 

"There are very few people around the sector who can possess a deep understanding about both grid modernization and cybersecurity," said Jordan Henry, Director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Cybersecurity Center. "Having GMI experts present allowed those of us in cybersecurity to better understand how grid technology is evolving. That insight would be valuable at other cybersecurity conferences, as it's important context on the cybersecurity implications."

The challenge of creating the grid of the future – one that is clean, secure, reliable and affordable and provides an equitable transition from our current system – may seem daunting. But, as was proven at DOE's 2024 Energy Transition Summit, no one has to tackle it alone.

Originally published on the Grid Modernization Initiative Website.

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Quick Facts

Date: February 27, 2024
Type of News: DOE Announcements
News Outlet: Grid Modernization Initiative Website