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White House Official Urges Cyber Protection of Solar Energy

In San Antonio on Wednesday, a White House official urged the private sector to partner with government to build a "cybersecurity foundation" to protect solar power sources from cyber attacks.

solar energy
(TNS) — In San Antonio on Wednesday, a White House official urged the private sector to partner with government to build a "cybersecurity foundation" to protect solar power sources from cyberattacks.

"This clean energy transition is nothing less than a vital issue of national security," said Harry Krejsa, the assistant national cyber director, during the first-ever Secure Renewables conference at the Henry B. González Convention Center.

Solar power makes up about 4 percent of the nation's electricity. President Joe Biden is pushing to increase that share to 30 percent by 2030.

Last month, Biden warned that intelligence indicated "the Russian government is exploring options for potential cyber- attacks" — including against energy infrastructure.

Texas is the second largest solar market in the U.S.

So far this year, solar has contributed a record 5 percent of the state's electricity.

In the first three months of this year, Texas solar farms generated 85 percent more power than in the same period last year. In March alone, solar panels in the state produced twice as much electricity as they generated in all of 2016.

" Texas is one of the largest states in the country for utility-scaled solar, and it's grown so rapidly in the last few years," said Abigail Ross Hopper, the president and CEO of the trade group Solar Energy Industries Association, one of the event's sponsors. "Just like the oil and gas industry spent a lot of time making sure their assets were physically secure, similarly we need to make sure no one can infiltrate solar systems."

Krejsa said Wednesday that Texans have "a front row seat" to both the high potential of renewable energy infrastructure and its shortcomings.

"The promise of renewable energy is that this transition will not only allow us to make a decarbonized energy infrastructure but also a more defensible, resilient and secure one that's also more affordable to Texan consumers," Krejsa said in an interview.

"With San Antonio being a major hub in cybersecurity work, there's a lot of opportunity for a lot of synergy between the clean energy transition and the work that's going on here in Cyber City," he said.

Chris Inglis, the national cyber director, and Krejsa co-wrote a Foreign Affairs article earlier this year urging the government and big tech companies to shoulder cybersecurity responsibilities for small and medium-sized firms, schools and local government.

"The private sector must prioritize long-term investments in a digital ecosystem that equitably distributes the burden of cyberdefense," they wrote. "Government, in turn, must provide more timely and comprehensive threat information while simultaneously treating industry as a vital partner."

Inglis' office was created by Congress last year.

In 2020, Russian hackers attacked the Austin-based information technology company Solar Wind, gaining access to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency — the arm of the Homeland Security Department responsible for protecting federal computer systems.

In May, Russian-speaking hackers shut down the Colonial Pipeline, which carries gasoline and jet fuel between Houston and the U.S. Southeast and New York areas.

© 2022 the San Antonio Express-News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.