NRECA Receives $4 Million in DOE Funding to Boost Electric Co-op Cybersecurity Preparedness

ARLINGTON, Va. – The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association has been awarded $4 million from the Department of Energy to launch Project Guardian, an initiative to advance the cybersecurity posture of electric co-ops by giving them new tools to detect, respond to and recover from cyber threats and attacks.

The funding, authorized under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and part of the Rural and Municipal Utility Cybersecurity (RMUC) Program, will be provided over a four-year period by DOE’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER).

“As cyber threats evolve, so must electric co-op efforts to protect against them,” NRECA CEO Jim Matheson said. “Project Guardian will accelerate ongoing electric cooperative cybersecurity collaboration and, in partnership with DOE, help protect the electric grid from increasingly sophisticated cybersecurity threats and attacks.”

NRECA and a working group of electric cooperatives will leverage the funding to concentrate efforts on four areas:

  • Self-Assessment Framework. NRECA will revamp a self-assessment program to help co-ops understand their cybersecurity strengths and vulnerabilities while also guiding them toward greater cyber maturity. The program will help electric co-ops develop right-sized incident response plans and incorporate tailored cybersecurity tabletop exercises in their planning.

  • Threat Analysis Center. NRECA will use its Threat Analysis Center to disseminate program content to electric co-ops, including tabletop exercises, guidelines, on-ramp guides for TAC usage, threat advisories and other critical information.

  • Cyber Champions. The project will cultivate co-op cyber champions who are responsible for amplifying and cascading relevant information and updates to other electric co-ops within their region. In partnership with other public entities, they will establish two-way communication channels and synchronize messaging related to cyberattack reporting and collaboration before, during and after cyberattacks.

  • Workforce Development. The project team will catalogue cybersecurity job roles and descriptions aligned with industry needs, in collaboration with DOE’s National Laboratories. Standardized job descriptions and career trajectories will help co-ops secure and retain a robust cybersecurity workforce.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national trade association representing nearly 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape. As local businesses built by the consumers they serve, electric cooperatives have meaningful ties to rural America and invest $15 billion annually in their communities.