Little Rock-based regional transmission organization Southwest Power Pool has hired Felek Abbas as vice president and chief security officer, according to a Wednesday (Jan. 3) news release. Abbas started in the role Wednesday.
Sam Ellis, vice president of information technology of SPP, has been chief security officer since January 2020. Ellis will transfer his security responsibilities to Abbas and focus on future grid strategies and ensure SPP has the right technologies to support its goals.
As vice president and chief security officer, Abbas will oversee SPP’s cyber and physical security, emergency management and business continuity. The position is important to safeguarding SPP’s role in grid operations and protecting its data and personnel.
“Cyber and physical security is a very real risk to the electric utility industry,” said Barbara Sugg, president and CEO of SPP. “Felek has skills and experience that will help SPP address the challenges presented by a global cyber threat landscape, and we are proud to welcome him to SPP.”
Abbas has nearly 30 years of electric industry experience in cybersecurity, engineering, consulting, risk management, audit and compliance. He most recently served as senior manager of cybersecurity for power and utilities at Ernst & Young, where he supported clients with cybersecurity program transformations in information technology and operational technology. He’s also worked as a NERC critical infrastructure protection (CIP) compliance adviser and auditor. In the role, he helped shape and implement the NERC CIP v5 cybersecurity standards. Also, Abbas has operational experience as a SCADA engineer at Progress Energy, Mirant Corp. and Georgia Power Co.
Abbas earned an electrical engineering degree from Auburn University and is an (ISC)2 certified information systems security professional.
“I am excited to join SPP and its executive leadership team,” said Abbas. “It is a dynamic time for the power industry, and I am looking forward to contributing my extensive experience to secure and fulfill SPP’s mission to responsibly and economically keep the lights on.”
SPP works to ensure the reliable supply of power, adequate transmission infrastructure and competitive wholesale electricity prices for its members in 14 states, including Arkansas.