Electric grid cybersecurity in the U.S. was revved up in the past week as the Energy Department announced investments of more than $30 million in 10 solution-seeking projects. At the same time, the DOE selected an Electric Power Research Institute- (EPRI-) led collaborative to assess and develop technologies and standards to protect the nation against cyber attacks.

The DOE said on Sept. 23 that eight of the 10 projects (PDF, full list) would research, develop, and commercialize a comprehensive range of cybersecurity solutions for the grid, many of which would apply to the smart grid.

Funding includes $3.1 million to Sypris Electronics for a project to enhance the security of smart grid meters at residences, ensuring that the data remains private through the use of electronic data keys.

Two additional projects will support a new National Electric Sector Cybersecurity Organization (NESCO). The Energy Sector Security Consortium Inc. will form NESCO, a broad-based, public-private partnership that will work to improve electric sector computer and network cybersecurity, including the security of the smart grid. Working with the DOE and other federal agencies, NESCO is expected to bring together domestic and international experts to assess, analyze, and disseminate information about electric infrastructure weaknesses and threats. EPRI is the other recipient of funds; it will provide research and analysis for NESCO.

EPRI said in a release on Monday that it would work with the DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) to negotiate funding for the public-private research initiative that will comprise national research and commercial research laboratories, universities, and subject matter experts in key areas of cybersecurity.

Among the group’s tasks are: assessing requirements and results developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), and other organizations; reviewing power system and cybersecurity standards in meeting power system security requirements; and testing grid security technologies protocols using laboratories and pilot projects.

Last week, the DOE also released the 2010 U.S. Smart Grid Vendor Ecosystem Report, which shows the level of commercial activity being generated by the smart grid. The report highlights $2.75 billion in annual product sales in three key smart grid categories: advanced metering infrastructure, demand response, and distribution grid management.

Sources: DOE, EPRI