This piece was originally published in the January 2017 issue of electroindustry.
Congressman Bob Latta (R-OH)
Our nation’s energy infrastructure—and specifically our electric grid—deserves more attention in the coming year.
The private sector is rapidly innovating and finding ways to update our grid and make us less vulnerable as a nation to cyberattacks. We must also protect against adverse weather and accidents that could significantly impact our economy and threaten public safety. A massive blackout, even for a short amount of time, would have serious repercussions.
As congressional Grid Innovation Caucus co-chair, I’ve advocated for investment in upgrading our nation’s electric grid for a number of reasons, with security being the most important. Our electric grid’s vulnerabilities increase the likelihood that terrorist groups or unfriendly foreign governments can exploit weaknesses and cause harm.
More than just security, we need an electric grid that is reliable and resilient for energy consumers. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, power outages cost Americans more than $150 billion annually. That’s why I’ve supported legislation empowering the Department of Energy, local and state governments, and the private sector to enhance coordination and improve emergency response and recovery. Keeping our electric grid up and running, and keeping us connected, should be one of our top priorities.
Likewise, it is essential that we look at emerging technologies and assess them according to our roles as policymakers. One area that I’ve focused on in Congress is what the Internet of Things (IoT) will mean for our economy and our way of life. Simply put, IoT is using connectivity in everyday devices to send and transmit data. A common example might be wearables in a shirt or watch that can send information to your phone or a computer about a workout or your health.
The IoT offers plenty of opportunities, including the potential for adding billions of dollars to our economy. IoT could also revolutionize our transportation, manufacturing, agriculture, and healthcare sectors by sending and interpreting real-time data to aid in decision-making and improving efficiency.
However, as with any new technology, there are obstacles to be addressed. While many concerns focus on sensor technology and how to transmit information, what keeps me up at night is the susceptibility of devices to cyber attacks. Bad actors have already used IoT devices—in one case, security cameras—to carry out denial of service attacks and shut down large segments of the internet. At the same time, we must be vigilant and develop ways to protect sensitive data from groups trying to illicitly access it.
Connectivity is changing the way we live for the better, but it will continue to present obstacles that we must overcome as a nation. The discussion should begin now about how we address the most pressing concerns.