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Executive Order on Artificial Intelligence Includes Directives Relevant to Power Sector

An executive order recently issued by President Biden directs various federal agencies to examine the impacts that artificial intelligence could have across the economy and includes directives relevant to the electric utility sector.

Biden issued the “Executive Order on the Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence,” on Oct. 30, which directs numerous executive agencies to examine the impacts AI could have across the economy and to take steps to ensure the safety, security, and privacy of individuals and critical infrastructure.

Department of Energy

The Executive Order directs the Department of Energy to, within 180 days, in consultation with the Chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Chair of the Office on Science and Technology Policy, Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, the Assistant to the President and National Climate Advisor, and other relevant agencies deemed appropriate:

  • Issue a public report describing the potential for AI to improve planning, permitting, investment, and operations for electric grid infrastructure and to enable the provision of clean, affordable, reliable, resilient, and secure electric power to all Americans;
  • Develop tools that facilitate building foundation models useful for basic and applied science, including models that streamline permitting and environmental reviews while improving environmental and social outcomes;
  • Collaborate, as appropriate, with private sector organizations and members of academia to support development of AI tools to mitigate climate change risks;
  • Take steps to expand partnerships with industry, academia, other agencies, and international allies and partners to utilize DOE’s computing capabilities and AI testbeds to build foundation models that support new applications in science and energy, and for national security, including partnerships that increase community preparedness for climate-related risks, enable clean-energy deployment (including addressing delays in permitting reviews), and enhance grid reliability and resilience; and
  • Establish an office to coordinate development of AI and other critical and emerging technologies across DOE programs and the 17 National Laboratories.

The Executive Order also directs DOE, in coordination with the heads of other Sector Risk Management Agencies, to implement a plan for developing DOE’s AI model evaluation tools and AI test beds.

At minimum, DOE is directed to develop tools to evaluate AI capabilities to generate outputs that may represent nuclear, nonproliferation, biological, chemical, critical infrastructure, and energy-security threats or hazards.

DOE was also directed to do this work “solely for the purposes of guarding against these threats, and shall also develop model guardrails that reduce such risks.”

Sector Risk Management Agencies

The Executive Order also directs Sector Risk Management Agencies to, within 90 days and at least annually thereafter, in coordination with the Department of Homeland Security, evaluate and provide DHS an assessment of potential risks related to the use of AI in critical infrastructure sectors involved, including ways in which deploying AI may make critical infrastructure systems more vulnerable to critical failures, physical attacks, and cyberattacks.

National Institute of Standards and Technology and Department of Commerce

In addition, the Executive Order directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology to set standards for red-team testing and the Departments of Homeland Security and Energy to apply those standards to critical infrastructure sectors.

It also directs the Department of Commerce to develop guidance for content authentication and watermarking to clearly label AI-generated content and orders the National Security Council and the White House chief of staff to develop of a National Security Memorandum that directs further actions on AI and security.

AI Developers

The Executive Order also requires AI developers to share their safety test results and other critical information with the federal government.

In accordance with the Defense Production Act, the Executive Order requires companies developing any foundational model that poses a serious risk to national security, national economic security, or national public health and safety to notify the federal government when training the model and share the results of all red-team safety tests.