Rural Utilities Encouraged to Apply for Cybersecurity Prize

Nearly two years after the passage of the historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Department of Energy released the first phase of a $250 million program directed at the cybersecurity needs of rural and municipal utilities. Titled the Advanced Cybersecurity Technology Prize (ACT 1), this flagship program provides up to $200,000 for rural utilities to assess and improve their cybersecurity systems.

Utilities with limited resources now have a chance to receive money for the creation of integrated plans. The ACT 1 Prize Program incentivizes cyber planning and investments over three phases of prizes: Commitment, Planning, and Implementation. Awards ranging from $50,000-$100,000 will be given to between 25-50 utilities after utilities have completed initial assessments and solution designs. The first deadline, November 22, is quickly approaching so interested utilities should act fast.

In addition to the short-term Prize window, the DOE recently announced a separate $70M competitive grant program. While awards are bigger (up to $3M), this program has additional requirements. See this Notice for more information.

The prize program comes at a time when attention on electric grid security attention is growing. Recent data released by the Department of Energy signal that 2023 is on track to set new records for reported physical and cyberattacks on critical infrastructure.

The importance of cybersecurity is highlighted by a recent Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ruling which requires entities registered on the stock exchange to report material cybersecurity incidents within four days. The ruling also requires company leaders to follow cybersecurity protocol and prioritize proactive strategies. Some analysts are speculating this requirement may be extended to other private companies.

Whether formal reporting requirements are extended to distribution utilities or not, utilities are ultimately responsible for the impacts of cyber attackers. Intruders may access the grid through a variety of environments, and each of these spaces requires a unique but integrated approach to security.

If you're interested in applying, download this flyer for a quick summary of everything you need to know about the cybersecurity prize. 



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