Critical Infrastructure Security

DOE Launches $9 Million Rural and Municipal Utility Cybersecurity Prize Competition

The Department of Energy (DOE) has launched a cash prize contest to award under-resourced rural utilities with nearly $9 million to defend against cyberattacks.

DOE’s Advanced Cybersecurity Technology (ACT) 1 Prize Competition is part of the Rural and Municipal Utility Cybersecurity (RMUC) Program intended to help utilities with limited ability to defend themselves from cyber attackers and to train their employees or meet staffing needs.

The RMUC program will provide $250 million over a five-year period to enhance the cybersecurity posture of cooperative, municipal, and small investor-owned electric utilities. The $8.96 million ACT 1 Prize is the first in a series of prizes from the RMUC Program.

The winning utilities in the first phase of the competition will be chosen for their “commitment to serving their communities” in technology and training. A second phase involves utilities completing assessments and identifying potential solutions. And, a third phase is demonstrating the capability to put the solutions into practice.

Realities of Rural Utilities

Nearly one in six Americans live in a remote or rural community. Utilities in these communities often cite difficulty recruiting top cybersecurity talent, inadequate infrastructure to support new technologies, and a lack of the financial resources needed to modernize and secure their systems. 

“Rural electric cooperative, municipal, and small investor-owned utilities carry out a critical economic and national security role in the United States - often with limited resources,” said Under Secretary for Infrastructure David Crane.

“As the Biden-Harris Administration seeks to create a more secure and reliable energy grid and strengthen the economies and quality of life in rural communities across America, it is imperative that the Department of Energy assists our rural utility partners with cybersecurity issues.”

The RMUC program is managed by DOE’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response. It is intended to provide critical investments to strengthen utility systems, deliver crucial technical assistance, and provide cybersecurity training to the utility workforce.

The first phase of the contest is an American-Made Challenges competition administered by DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. ACT 1 Prize applications are due by 5:00 PM (ET) on November 29, 2023.

D. Howard Kass

D. Howard Kass is a contributing editor to MSSP Alert. He brings a career in journalism and market research to the role. He has served as CRN News Editor, Dataquest Channel Analyst, and West Coast Senior Contributing Editor at Channelnomics. As the CEO of The Viewpoint Group, he led groundbreaking market research.