Practice Makes Perfect: The GridEx Motto

They say practice makes perfect. And while in life we learn quickly that most things don’t go perfectly, electricity companies know that practice and preparation help them ensure that customers can depend on a more reliable and resilient electricity system.

Over three days in November, hundreds of electricity companies from across Canada and the U.S., along with partners in the electricity security community, practiced and prepared for security threats through participating in GridEx – North America’s largest grid security exercise.

This once every two-year exercise is hosted by the Electricity Security Information Sharing and Analysis Centre (“E-ISAC”), the security information sharing arm of the North American bulk power system electricity regulator. It includes participation of electricity companies, government and law enforcement, and other critical infrastructure sectors. Most importantly, GridEx allows these players to practice response and recovery in the face of simulated, coordinated cyber and physical attacks on the North American electricity system and other critical infrastructure.

Exercises like this one help electricity companies, and electricity security partners, to be better prepared to take on real-life security threats. Practicing response and recovery helps to build essential relationships within companies and across the critical infrastructure community in both Canada and the U.S., and it allows for a safe space to learn and to figure out what works best or what doesn’t.

And practicing and preparing is essential – why? Because the security landscape electricity companies face as they work 24/7 to ensure reliable and resilient power to customers is a challenging one. From more extreme weather events brought about by climate change, to more malicious cyber threat actors, to a more digitized and connected world that brings both exciting opportunities and new challenges, the environment is a dynamic one. Indeed, just as this exercise was happening, electricity companies in B.C. for example had to instead turn their focus and respond to the unprecedented major floods in the province, underlining why it’s so important to practice and prepare.

Exercises are an important tool in the toolbox of items that help electricity companies work towards a more secure and resilient power system – a toolbox that includes mandatory reliability and security standards as a baseline. And as our communities look to more clean electricity to help solve climate change challenges and to power more of the economy, the imperative for reliable and resilient electricity will only grow. Electricity companies are ready to do their part in ensuring customers can depend on reliable and sustainable electricity – they already are. But no one company or sector can do this alone, as critical infrastructure security is a shared responsibility. As we look ahead, deeper trusted partnerships throughout the critical infrastructure security community to work in unity of effort to make things more secure will be essential.

And what does that look like? It means governments continue to invest in programs and policies that serve to support the security posture of Canadian critical infrastructure. It means promoting and training a security workforce. It means deepened support for security information and intelligence sharing programs between industry and government. It means research, development and deployment of new technologies or practices that make the grid more secure.

And finally, it means a continued commitment to practice, to improve and to prepare through exercises like GridEx. We can’t always predict what security challenges the world will bring, but by practicing how we will act when things get tough, the electricity security community can stay one step ahead.