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NERC co-ordinated its third grid security exercise this month with results expected in Q1 2016

In North America, more than 350 organisations and 3,000 participants from across the electric utility industry and federal and state governments participated in the North American Reliability Corporation's (NERC's) industry-wide grid security and incident response exercise GridEx III.

The two-day exercise that took place on 18-19 November was designed to enhance the coordination of cyber and physical security resources, as well as communication with government partners and other stakeholders, including those in Canada and Mexico.

The biennial exercise, which started in 2011, gives participants the opportunity to self-assess their emergency response and recovery plans through a simulated exercise that takes place across North America.

Tom Kuhn, the president of the Edison Electric Institute, the association that represents US investor-owned electric companies, said GridEx III illustrated the industry and government's commitment to making the grid more secure and resilient.

Coordination to combat grid threats

Thomas A. Fanning, chairman, president, and CEO of Southern Company, and co-chair of the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC), also commented that: "The electric utility industry and government must work together constantly to prepare for, assess, and respond to ever-evolving threats to the electric grid."

"Since GridEx II in 2013, the electric utility industry has strengthened its coordination with the government through the ESCC to better prepare for and respond to national security threats to the grid. GridEx III provided another opportunity for industry and government to test their plans and identify lessons learned that will inform our response to future threats."

The ESCC serves as the principal liaison between the federal government and the electric utility industry, with the mission of coordinating efforts to prepare for, and respond to, national-level disasters and threats to critical infrastructure.

Electric utility CEOs, trade association leaders representing all segments of the industry, NERC, the Electricity-Information Sharing and Analysis Center (E-ISAC), and senior Administration officials from the White House; the Departments of Energy, Homeland Security, and Defense; the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and national security organizations make up the ESCC-government partnership.

The GridEx II exercise in 2011 involved 200 participating organisations.