New Prize Supports Rural and Municipal Utilities in Strengthening Cybersecurity Posture
Prize Aims To Improve Ability of Utilities To Protect Against, Detect, Respond to, and Recover From Cybersecurity Threats
Cyber threats pose a risk to the energy infrastructure that powers households and businesses across the United States. Cyberattacks can impact utilities—large and small—and cause consequences that range from financial impacts and supply shortages to electricity outages.
Most remote and rural communities primarily receive their power from electric cooperatives and publicly owned utilities. These not-for-profit utilities serve nearly one in six Americans and fulfill a critical role in sustaining the fabric of American rural life—often with limited resources.
To support the utilities powering rural America in fortifying their systems against cyber threats, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Rural and Municipal Utility Advanced Cybersecurity Grant and Technical Assistance (RMUC) Program launched the Advanced Cybersecurity Technology (ACT) 1 Prize.
The prize, which opened for applications on Aug. 30, 2023, offers a total prize pool of $8.96 million in competitive funding and technical assistance. The three-phase competition is designed to enable electric cooperative, municipal, and small investor-owned utilities to make significant investments in staff training, governance processes, and technologies to harden their systems against cyber threats.
These investments aim to improve the security and resilience of the electric grid so that it is better prepared to meet the cybersecurity threats facing electric utilities.
The application for Phase 1 is open until Nov. 29, 2023, at 5 p.m. ET.
Eligible utilities that are interested in applying will be required to declare their commitment to participate in the ACT 1 Prize and describe their resources and need for improving their cybersecurity posture. Additionally, Phase 1 applicants will be required to attend two informational webinars, one on Sept. 27, 2023, and one on Oct. 11, 2023.
Up to 55 eligible utilities will be selected to progress to Phase 2 and will receive $50,000 in cash prizes and 60–120 hours of technical assistance. In this phase, utilities will work with qualified technical assistance providers to identify cybersecurity risks and gaps, prioritize solutions, create road maps to improving their cybersecurity posture, and implement solutions.
Up to 30 utilities will be selected to progress to Phase 3 and will receive an additional $50,000 in cash prizes and 60–120 hours of technical assistance. In this phase, utilities will continue to work with technical assistance providers to make progress on completing their implementation road map.
At the conclusion of Phase 3, an additional $100,000 will be awarded to the participating utilities that can demonstrate progress on completing their implementation road maps.
Electric cooperative, municipal, and small investor-owned utilities with limited cybersecurity resources are invited to apply. Interested utilities can access the ACT 1 Prize application materials via the ACT 1 Prize page on HeroX.
The ACT 1 Prize is an American-Made Challenges competition administered by DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and managed by DOE’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER). The prize is the first in a series from the RMUC Program. Access DOE’s prize launch announcement.
Established by the historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the RMUC Program will provide $250 million during a five-year period to strengthen the cybersecurity posture of cooperative, municipal, and small investor-owned electric utilities. Visit CESER’s website to learn more about upcoming RMUC Program activities and events.