Military Veterans, Distributed Energy Resources and Cybersecurity

North Carolina has the third largest military population in the United States and almost 10 percent of North Carolina’s population are military veterans. Providing training for transitioning military veterans is important for those who have selflessly given themselves in service to our country. Military veterans have skills in a number of areas that can transition easily to civilian employment.

One of those skills is in cybersecurity. The military provides a training ground for protecting networks and the country against cyberattacks. Experience includes monitoring, analyzing, detecting, and responding to unauthorized activity in the cyberspace domain. Military personnel learn actions to strengthen information systems and networks, perform vulnerability assessments, and respond to incidents. Those cybersecurity skills are desperately needed in securing today’s energy infrastructure, particularly due to the deployment of distributed energy resources (DERs).

Increased DERs comes with the added responsibility of securing them at every level, from individual components to system architecture. Increased risks come with the sheer number of devices, access points, and two-way communication. In other words, interconnected devices through DERs increase responsiveness, efficiency, performance, and energy management but also increase cyberattack risk.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) partnered with the SunSpec Alliance for a program entitled Cyberguardians to prepare military veteran job seekers for cybersecurity positions working with DER technology. The N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center (NCCETC) signed onto this three-year program, as a vocational training partner, to offer training for veterans and motivated students. Allison Carr, Training Specialist at the NCCETC, will lead this effort and anticipates offering the first course this fall. Plans are in the works for up to nine courses and perhaps a certification in DER cybersecurity.

The NCCETC was an ideal partner for this program because of connections with the N.C. State University School of Engineering and N.C. Cooperative Extension, similar to university partners with the University of California San Diego, where the first Cyberguardian program has been deployed. Program officials were looking to add  partners outside of California, and North Carolina’s academic community and military were fortunate to be on their radar for program expansion.

The SunSpec Alliance is a group of 100 solar and energy storage companies who will be instrumental in identifying the job opportunities for program participants as they finish training and look for job placement.

Cybersecurity and the military have a great North Carolina partner with the North Carolina Military Business Center (NCMBC). In early 2020, the NCMBC launched the State’s Interagency Cybersecurity Coordinating Committee (I3C) to assist businesses across the state with preparation for Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC). CMMC is a “verification mechanism to ensure appropriate levels of cybersecurity practices and processes are in place to ensure basic cyber hygiene as well as protect controlled unclassified information (CUI) that resides on the Department of Defense industry partners’ networks.”

Scott Dorney, Executive Director, NCMBC sees their work as complimentary to the NCCETC and Cyberguardians.

“The N.C. Military Business Center is focused on transitioning military veterans into civilian employment and our newest work with Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification. Both of these activities are closely aligned with the Cyberguardians Program and we forward to partnering with the NCCETC as they begin this program”.

The Solar Ready Vets Program was another DOE program that has similar themes to the Cyberguardians program. This program was launched in 2014 to connect veterans to careers as solar photovoltaic system installers, sales representatives and system inspectors. The NCMBC assisted Fayetteville Technical Community College in launching a pilot program of Solar Ready Vets. In 2017, the pilot ended and Solar Ready Vets became an independent program administered by participating military bases. Altogether, the pilot program graduated 526 students in 10 different states across the country including North Carolina.

The NCCETC looks forward to officially launching the Cyberguardians Program and looks to the success of previous endeavors such as the Solar Ready Vets Program as a good barometer of interest.  Stay tuned for future details on our work in the coming weeks.