Jun 10, 2018

Protecting power: why the electricity sector must switch to a cyber-first mindset

Erik Laykin
5 min
Wherever connectivity goes, vulnerability follows. Ahead of his speech at the upcoming

Wherever connectivity goes, vulnerability follows. Ahead of his speech at the upcoming Electrify Europe conference, Erik Laykin, Managing Director and Head of Global Data Risk at Duff & Phelps, uses the example of autonomous vehicles to argue that as the power sector becomes more central to our lives, electricity businesses must switch to a cybersecurity-first mindset.

The rise of the automotive industry was one of the most important developments of the last century, but it wasn’t always smooth sailing. Indeed, the sector has been through a number of seismic shifts over the years. And the move towards autonomous vehicles, while tremendously exciting, leaves it facing its biggest challenge since the switch to a safety-first mindset 50 years ago.

From safety to security

Autonomous electric vehicles are not simple machines. They are complex pieces of kit, comprised of a number of sophisticated parts – all of which need to communicate with each other (in many cases wirelessly). The days of simple cogs and pistons are behind us.

All this communication means one thing: connectivity. And where connectivity goes, vulnerability is never far behind. The ubiquity of the internet has led to the rise of a whole range of bad actors using malware and hacking attacks to steal and extort by exploiting any weakness they can find.

And this can include the threat of physical harm. For instance, in the healthcare sector, MRI scanners, medical dispensing systems and even individual pacemakers could theoretically be hijacked for nefarious means, with potentially terrible consequences.

But if autonomous vehicles are hacked, there is potential for harm on a huge scale. And it’s not just the physical threat that we should be wary of.

Consider a situation wherein a newly antagonistic state had manufactured the braking systems for a large number of European vehicles. And as part of this antagonism, a state-backed hacker threatened to switch off these braking systems across the continent. The economic consequences would be massive, as we ceased using our cars for fear of the brakes failing.

In a world where global trading relations are going through a fractious period, this isn’t an entirely unrealistic proposition. This is why the next big switch to the industry will be the move from physical safety to security in all its forms.

The battery’s the bullseye

This move is about more than just auto manufacturers. The power industry will play a critical role.

Why? Because a car’s battery will be the most tempting target for those with ill intentions. Not only is it the very source of propulsion that enables the vehicle to move, but it is also the only component that will be hooked up to, and communicating with, all other parts of the vehicle. This means more opportunities for infection, and a higher likelihood that once in, malware can spread to other parts of the car.

This is a dangerous position for the power sector to find itself in. And protecting itself will require businesses from across the whole electricity value chain to embed security into absolutely everything they do.

This is an unprecedented challenge for the power industry. For years, it has been able to channel electricity in one direction to its consumers. But it is increasingly becoming the platform upon which the rest of society is built. Autonomous vehicles and healthcare applications are just two examples, but the Internet of Things could just as easily be called the Internet of Power, the way in which it intersects with and depends upon the smart grid to fully function.

Creating culture

This new role requires a new culture. A culture which sees everyone, from engineers to executives, looking up beyond mere functionality to ensure that their products and solutions are safe and secure.

It’s not an easy ask. Culture change is tricky at the best of times, but it’s even harder when technology is changing at this pace – and the threats are evolving with it. Regulations aren’t keeping up – making it even more important that companies take matters into their own hands to establish ever-improving minimum standards to ensure that our power platform is protected.

Education and training will be essential to ensuring that throughout each organisation there is a thread of common knowledge and understanding about the nature of the threat, the importance of fighting back, and just how to do it.

But perhaps even more important is to ensure that these organisations are talking to each other – sharing information, insight and ideas from their own unique experiences. Too often those faced with cyberthreats bury their heads in the sand when in fact they should be joining together to tackle the issue head-on.

That’s the thinking behind conference and exhibition events, such as Electrify Europe, which provide a platform for professionals from across the electricity value network to come together and exchange ideas – both through speeches and talks on their plans and ambitions and through showing their latest products off on the exhibition floor.

Because not only is cybersecurity critical to protecting these businesses from harm, but it is fast becoming a means of differentiation and competitive advantage. Just as safety features are an importance thread running through automotive marketing today, we can expect cybersecurity measures to do the same tomorrow.

And so they should. Because autonomous vehicles are just the start. Power is set to be the platform our world is built on. We have to protect it.

This year’s Electrify Europe conference and exhibition will be held in Vienna between 19-21 June 2018.

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Jul 29, 2021

Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030

Dominic Ellis
4 min
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades says the UK's National Infrastructure Commission

Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission

Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.

The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.

The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture. 

It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.  

The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020. 

Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.

The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.

While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.

Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.

Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse. 

"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.

“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.” 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets. 

Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.  

Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."

McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:

  • Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
  • Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
  • Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
  • Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
  • The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere

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