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Executive Order to protect U.S. bulk power system includes hydropower

Donald Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order last week that prohibits bulk power system equipment from foreign companies because his administration believes it could put the U.S. electricity system at risk.

The Executive Order on Securing the United States Bulk Power System authorizes Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette to prohibit federal agencies and U.S. entities from acquiring, transferring or installing BPS equipment in “which any foreign country or foreign nation has any interest and the transaction poses an unacceptable risk to national security.”

“President Trump demonstrated bold leadership to protect America’s bulk-power system and ensure the safety and prosperity of all Americans,” said 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.”

According to the Executive Order, the BPS “provides the electricity that supports our national defense, vital emergency services, critical infrastructure, economy, and way of life.” The term “bulk-power system” means facilities and control systems necessary for operating an interconnected electric energy transmission network (or any portion thereof); and electric energy from generation facilities needed to maintain transmission reliability.  

The federal government spends millions on BPS components annually. Current procurement rules favor contracts based on lowest cost bidders, but the U.S. Department of Energy release noted that made the process vulnerable to being exploited by malicious actors.

“Evolving threats facing our critical infrastructure have only served to highlight the supply chain risks faced by all sectors, including energy, and the need to ensure the availability of secure components from American companies and other trusted sources,” reads the DOE release on the executive order.

Accordingly, 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.   

Additionally, a Task Force led by 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 Oil and Natural Gas Subsector Coordinating Councils to further its efforts on securing the BPS.