The United States’ transition to cleaner energy sources has led to a surge in demand for Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS). Powering an increasingly renewables-based energy grid means relying on battery modules from China. However, cybersecurity concerns associated with BESS from China may very well cause serious market disruptions. Last year Chinese batteries at US military bases were tied to potential spying and sabotage. Calls to ban Chinese batteries are increasing today, motivated by reports of Chinese state-supported intrusions into US critical infrastructure networks.

A few years ago, Huawei’s rip-and-replace program presented a trade conflict masquerading as a cybersecurity problem. So to what extent are warning calls over BESS today threat hyperbole or a risk that justifies radical adjustments? Does the interconnection of BESS to corporate networks represent a mere risk to the BESS itself or the entire power grid through cascading cyber exploits?

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a DC think tank that has helped shape the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s position on the issue has asserted that “the threat posed by Beijing’s battery dominance is clear.” The FDD’s author then wryly asks whether the US and Europe “will prioritize decarbonization over their enduring security needs.”

Indeed, European energy security has trumped climate goals after the invasion of Ukraine. Today, China’s dominance in the battery supply chain threatens to override the energy transition as China hawks have started beating the familiar drum. But are the costs incurred by rip-and-replace programs justified by the risks?

A new IGP White Paper by Energy and Cybersecurity expert Juan F. Villarreal provides a thorough assessment of Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) to address some of those concerns. Among the study’s key findings:

  • BESS from China does not pose serious national security risks from cyber events.
  • Any potential cyber event would impact the battery itself, not the overall grid.
  • China hawks’ concerns can be managed by implementing only the battery modules from China and integrating them with a control system from another country.

The study provides a comprehensive template and suggests areas of future research to better manage cybersecurity risks associated with BESS. Villarreal provides timely policy recommendations to prioritize short and medium-term solutions while laying the groundwork for a long-term, secure, and sustainable energy future. By understanding the technology and implementing appropriate mitigation strategies as included in the paper’s policy recommendations, the United States can ensure a secure and efficient transition to cleaner energy sources.

Read the full paper here.

About Juan F. Villarreal: With a Bachelor’s degree in Nuclear Engineering and a Master’s degree in Cybersecurity, coupled with extensive international experience managing multidisciplinary teams across Europe, Latin America, and the United States, Juan brings a diverse skill set to the intersection of cybersecurity and the electric industry. His background in nuclear engineering provides a solid foundation for understanding complex power systems, while his cybersecurity expertise enables him to address the evolving threats facing critical infrastructure. Throughout his career, he’s successfully led teams in diverse cultural contexts, fostering collaboration and innovation to tackle challenges head-on. Juan’s passion lies in leveraging this broad expertise to ensure the security and resilience of electric infrastructure worldwide, driving forward progress in an increasingly interconnected and digitized world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.