“Strengthen US Energy Infrastructure before the next Cyberattack”—with more Microgrids.

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by Executive Director Chad Forcey

John Lehman served as U.S. Navy Secretary from 1981-1987 under President Ronald Reagan. He served on the 9-11 Commission, flew sorties in Vietnam, and has been at the forefront of finance and national security expertise throughout his distinguished career.

Most of the overall recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission, which I served on, have been followed. But some need more work.

John Lehman

He considered the May 2021 cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline, and wrote the following:

“Most of the overall recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission, which I served on, have been followed. But some need more work.

In our report, we note that the majority of America’s infrastructure is in private hands. We found that the Department of Homeland Security should “identify those elements of our transportation, energy, communications, financial, and other institutions that need to be protected.” As we had noted earlier, the vulnerabilities and difficulties associated with pipelines contributed to instability in the Middle East before the 9/11 attacks. We understood the easy target that pipelines presented to our enemies. We noted that protecting them would require going “well beyond the pre-existing jobs” carried out by the department’s predecessors.

Today, cyberattacks by a nation-state, terrorist organization, or criminal enterprise (or any of these working in coordination) pose the greatest challenge to our vulnerable energy infrastructure.

With digital access infiltrated by foreign agents, it is necessary to consider scenarios much worse than this one. What will we do, for instance, when entire electrical grids are targeted for shutdown? If we are having this much trouble with a Russian-based group of criminals known as “Dark Side,” how will we defend ourselves against the Russian military’s cyber warriors?

Holding out proposed Community Solar legislation in Pennsylvania as an example, John Lehman noted that microgrids, including those utilizing solar energy, were a necessary part of the solution:

In 2018, a group of fellow Pennsylvania leaders and I launched the Pennsylvania Conservative Energy Forum, a group devoted to “all of the above” energy generation that includes new technologies. Our organization recognizes that renewable energy must be a part of building for the future. On my farm, solar panels generate most of the electricity needed for our agricultural operations.

Last year, I endorsed bipartisan legislation drafted by Pennsylvania conservatives for Community Solar, an initiative that will secure local generation for thousands of more Pennsylvanians.

A microgrid is a self-sufficient energy system that serves a discrete geographic footprint, such as a college campus, hospital complex, business center, or neighborhood. Within microgrids are one or more kinds of distributed energy (solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal) that produce their power.

Community Solar, as proposed in Pennsylvania, will create more microgrids, which are a hedge against assaults on our electrical distribution system by hostile foreign powers.

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About author
Chad Forcey comes to PennCEF with considerable experience in the world of advocacy. Forcey served the Irrigation Association and the PA Landscape and Nursery Association. He was the personal aide to Governor Mark Sweiker during his tenure in Harrisburg. An articulate spokesperson and seasoned writer, he works to educate, advocate, and engage Pennsylvanians to transition to clean energy in ways that bring jobs to the Commonwealth, make sense economically, protect land rights and guard our national security.
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