LAS VEGAS, NV (March 2, 2018) – On March 2, 2018 Congresswoman Jacky Rosen (NV-03) hosted an infrastructure roundtable with Nevada stakeholders at Valley Electric Association’s Las Vegas Business Center to discuss policy proposals to improve energy delivery and grid resiliency, strengthen cybersecurity, and build a capable energy workforce.
Rosen stressed the importance of infrastructure and the need to find solutions to vulnerabilities to our nation’s infrastructure.
“Finding solutions to tackle our nation’s infrastructure problem starts with input right here in my district,” said Rosen. “It’s really important to talk about infrastructure because at the end of the day we are only as strong as the systems that support us. Our energy infrastructure supports our military, health care, education, our transportation, our personal lives. Every single thing is supported by the strength and resiliency of our electric grid … and the grid is the backbone of that infrastructure.”
Rosen said when she arrived in Congress, she joined a group called “Problem Solvers Caucus” to tackle issues like infrastructure reform.
“There are about 50 to 60 of us, and our goal is to find bipartisan ways to come to the table and talk about issues that are important to the American people,” she said. Rosen emphasized that infrastructure is not just roads and bridges-it really is the integrity of the energy grid. She wants to talk about how this infrastructure can be resilient, and innovative, and to take care of what we have.
The roundtable in Las Vegas was a product of the Problem Solvers Caucus, and she hoped to take back to the caucus what she gathered from this roundtable.
Chris Ispen from Desert Research Institute responded to the Congresswoman question about challenges to cyber security by pointing to the difficulty of hiring qualified people.
“When I worked for the state of Nevada, we had 48 million attacks a day,” he said. “We know there is a threat. We are not looking at an academic approach to cyber security, but a practical approach to train people. We have people compete in games to find the cyber employees of the future.” The concept was patterned after the Bletchley Park Model, which was used to find people that had an aptitude to break codes during World War II.
“Once they distinguish their capabilities and not necessarily their education, then we take them and formalize their education through an internship program,” said Ipsen. “The program is called the ‘Cyber Start Program,’ and we are working through the Sands Institute. We just received a grant through the state for workforce development.”
Another aspect of cyber security revolved around developments in technology.
Peter Fischer, Director of Software Programs, Sierra Nevada Corp., said his company could provide cutting-edge technology to rural electric companies looking to secure their infrastructure.
“We are a defense company headquartered in Reno,” he said “We are here to help protect America’s infrastructure. Even if they are stopgaps. I can keep your network safe, and it allows you to do what is practical in these rural areas. Maybe you can get a grant to help you try out these new technologies. We are not going to stop someone from hacking into your system, but we will keep the lights on.”
The discussion eventually turned to the need to streamline federal regulations.
“What we are doing out in the rural areas is probably not practical in the metro areas,” said Dave Luttrell, President of the Nevada Rural Electric Association and CEO of Lincoln County Power District No.1. “One of the obstacles we run into is that we must install our fiber optics on existing power poles. Ninety percent of Nye County is on Bureau of Land Management land, and essentially we have to start a new environmental process (for those existing poles), even though there is no additional disturbance.”
He said this all ate up valuable time.
“We have to start an environmental process that could take several years just to get approval to install the fiber optics on our own power lines,” he said. “I would hope this is something you can engage on with us.”
Chris Tomchuk, Director of Energy Transmission for Valley Electric Association, stressed the need for transmission lines.
The California Energy Commission has identified the potential for more than three gigawatts of new resources, he said. “It goes along with transmission lines. We are trying to keep the resiliency and capacity of the grid up. How does that fit into that? For that is critical to small communities like Pahrump and Dyer. How do we get those transmission facilities built?
“It is critical for us to grow and export energy. How do we make sure that we remain as a renewable export entity in the country?”
Rosen said she gained a lot from the meeting. “What I want from you today is to be able to take back your concerns, your ideas, policy points, so I can take them back to our team and try to find ways we can work with our partners to put forth legislation that will keep our electric grid moving forward.”
About Valley Electric Association, Inc.
Valley Electric Association, Inc. (VEA) is a member-owned nonprofit electric utility headquartered in Pahrump, NV. While VEA started as a small rural electric utility in 1965, the company now provides electric service to more than 45,000 people within a vast 6,800-square-mile service area located primarily along the California-Nevada border, with the majority in Nevada. Valley Communications Association (VCA), a wholly owned subsidiary of VEA, began proving high-speed communications to our member-owners in the spring of 2016. VEA’s service area starts in Sandy Valley, southwest of Las Vegas, and extends north for more than 250 miles to Fish Lake Valley. For more information about VEA, please visit www.vea.coop.