May 17, 2020

Keeping the electrical grid safe

Admin
5 min
UC San Diego solar microgrid
[email protected] The March issue of Energy Digital magazine is live By Jan Zverina Cybersecurity of energy delivery systems is critical for protect...

The March issue of Energy Digital magazine is live

By Jan Zverina

Cybersecurity of energy delivery systems is critical for protecting the energy infrastructure and the integral function that it serves worldwide. Energy delivery systems are the backbone of the energy sector and the circuitry that keeps the globe running.

Most early system designs did not anticipate the security threats posed by the integration of advances in computers and communication such as off-the-shelf software and operating systems, public telecommunication networks, and the Internet. Energy delivery systems have become more productive and efficient, but the energy sector is faced with an unprecedented challenge in protecting systems against cyber incidents and threats.

The San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California, San Diego, is collaborating with Reston, Va., based Leidos Holdings Inc. to develop a reference system architecture aimed at increasing security levels of microgrid control and IT systems used to manage electrical microgrids worldwide.

Microgrids growing

Microgrids are small-scale versions of traditional larger power grids that draw energy from clean sources such as the wind and sun, as well as from conventional technology. They can be connected to a larger electric grid, but can also work independently. In addition, microgrids can more efficiently manage real-time demand, supply, and storage of energy at a lower cost and with less pollution than a conventional grid.

During the past decade the use of microgrids has grown significantly, with much of that growth occurring within the last few years. The growth has been driven by concerns about rising fuel costs for macrogrids, as well as macrogrid reliability, due to local community impacts such as loss of power to millions of people caused by natural disasters (e.g. Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012). With the advent of the smart grid, another concern comes from the awareness of cyber threats facing macrogrids.

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“Given the importance of these new microgrids, it is important to take a methodical approach to creating a security architecture that can be applied to these systems in a relatively standardized manner,” said Brian Russell, chief engineer for cybersecurity solutions at Leidos.  

 Leidos is among the first companies to champion the integrated application of advanced transmission and distribution technologies for a modernized grid. The ability of a microgrid to help minimize impacts during high energy demand conditions, and the increased focus on renewable and green energy sources, has made microgrids a viable alternative for efficient energy management and distribution. 

According to a Navigant Research report, the total worldwide capacity of distributed generation contained in microgrids will more than quintuple during the next six years, growing from 764 megawatts (MW) in 2012 to about 4,000 MW in 2018, and valued at more than $12.7 billion in potential vendor revenues.

Cybersecurity of grids

The San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) project will focus on analyzing the cybersecurity aspect of one of the world’s most advanced microgrids, located on the UC San Diego campus. The university saves more than $8 million a year in power costs due to its microgrid operation.

The campus’ microgrid project has also spurred investment: the nearly $4 million that the Energy Commission has invested in the microgrid since 2008 has been leveraged to garner more than $4 million from other funding sources, both public and private.

“Improving security for our sophisticated microgrid is extremely important to us,” said Byron Washom, director of Strategic Energy Initiatives at UC San Diego. “This project will allow us to establish effective baseline security controls that could be applied to microgrids all over the world.”

A well-defined security architecture and best practices to be developed under this project will provide a defense-in-depth approach to securing microgrids, ensuring that threat vectors identified during the threat analysis phase are properly mitigated. This security architecture shall be designed to support the anticipated future growth of the UC San Diego microgrid, as well as microgrids around the world. 

“SDSC will contribute its security experience in dealing with complex supercomputer systems as well as securing sensitive data such as FISMA- and HIPAA-compliant databases, to help raise awareness of security issues facing microgrids,” said Winston Armstrong, SDSC's chief information security officer. “SDSC will also recommend improvements to harden microgrid control systems in general.”

Experts in cybersecurity

The research work performed by SDSC is being funded by Leidos, which specializes in national security, health, engineering, and cybersecurity solutions that protect the nation's critical infrastructure. The company will not only fund the project but will also provide its expertise developed from its Smart Grid Cybersecurity program. The company helps design and implement the smart grid through a comprehensive and secure transformation of information technology and communications infrastructure.

“Leidos is committed to partnering with top tier research organizations such as UC San Diego and SDSC to improve the state of cybersecurity for our critical infrastructure,” said Julie Taylor, senior vice president for cybersecurity at Leidos. The company’s cybersecurity team employs more than 1,200 experts in cybersecurity and network defense, and has been a leader in the security market for more than 30 years.

As an Organized Research Unit of UC San Diego, SDSC is considered a leader in data-intensive computing and cyberinfrastructure, providing resources, services, and expertise to the national research community, including industry and academia. SDSC supports hundreds of multidisciplinary programs spanning a wide variety of domains.

With its two newest supercomputers, Trestles and Gordon, and a new system called Comet to be deployed in early 2015, SDSC is a partner in XSEDE (Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment), the most advanced collection of integrated digital resources and services in the world.

Leidos (formerly Science Applications International Corp.) is a science and technology solutions leader with $6 billion in revenues last year. Its 23,000 employees support missions to defend the nation's digital and physical infrastructure from 'new world' threats.

Jan Zverina is a writer in the Communications Office of the San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California, San Diego. For March, Jan wrote about the importance and the research project on the security levels of microgrid control and IT systems used to manage electrical microgrids worldwide.

Photo credit: Erik Jepsen, UC San Diego Publications

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Jul 26, 2021

Ofwat allows retailers to raise prices from April

Ofwat
Utilities
water
prices
Dominic Ellis
3 min
Ofwat confirms levels of bad debt costs across the business retail market are exceeding 2% of non-household revenue

Retailers can recover a portion of excess bad debt by temporarily increasing prices from April 2022, according to an Ofwat statement.

The regulator confirmed its view that levels of bad debt costs across the business retail market are exceeding 2% of non-household revenue, thereby allowing "a temporary increase" in the maximum prices. Adjustments to price caps will apply for a minimum of two years to reduce the step changes in price that customers might experience.

Measures introduced since March 2020 to contain the spread of Covid-19 could lead to retailers facing higher levels of customer bad debt. Retailers’ abilities to respond to this are expected to be constrained by Ofwat strengthening protections for non-household customers during Covid-19 and the presence of price caps.  

In April last year, Ofwat committed to provide additional regulatory protection if bad debt costs across the market exceeded 2% of non-household revenue. 

Georgina Mills, Business Retail Market Director at Ofwat said: “These decisions aim to protect the interests of non-household customers in the short and longer term, including from the risk of systemic Retailer failure as the business retail market continues to feel the impacts of COVID-19. By implementing market-wide adjustments to price caps, we aim to minimise any additional costs for customers in the shorter term by promoting efficiency and supporting competition.”  

There are also three areas where Ofwat has not reached definitive conclusions and is seeking further evidence and views from stakeholders:   

  1. Pooling excess bad debt costs – Ofwat proposes that the recovery of excess bad debt costs is pooled across all non-household customers, via a uniform uplift to price caps. 
  2. Keeping open the option of not pursuing a true up – For example if outturn bad debt costs are not materially higher than the 2% threshold. 
  3. Undertaking the true up – If a 'true up' is required, Ofwat has set out how it expects this to work in practice. 

Further consultation on the proposed adjustments to REC price caps can be expected by December.

Anita Dougall, CEO and Founding Partner at Sagacity, said Ofwat’s decision comes hot on the heels of Ofgem’s price cap rise in April.

"While it’s great that regulators are helping the industry deal with bad debt in the wake of the pandemic, raising prices only treats the symptoms. Instead, water companies should head upstream, using customer data to identify and rectify the causes of bad debt, stop it at source and help prevent it from occurring in the first place," she said.

"While recouping costs is a must, water companies shouldn’t just rely on the regulator. Data can help companies segment customers, identify and assist customers that are struggling financially, avoiding penalising the entire customer in tackling the cause of the issue."

United Utilities picks up pipeline award

A race-against-time plumbing job to connect four huge water pipes into the large Haweswater Aqueduct in Cumbria saw United Utilities awarded Utility Project of the Year by Pipeline Industries Guild.

The Hallbank project, near Kendal, was completed within a tight eight-day deadline, in a storm and during the second COVID lockdown last November – and with three hours to spare. Principal construction manager John Dawson said the project helped boost the resilience of water supplies across the North West.

“I think what made us stand out was the scale, the use of future technology and the fact that we were really just one team, working collaboratively for a common goal," he said.

Camus Energy secures $16m funding

Camus Energy, which provides advanced grid management technology, has secured $16 million in a Series A round, led by Park West Asset Management and joined by Congruent VenturesWave Capital and other investors, including an investor-owned utility. Camus will leverage the operating capital to expand its grid management software platform to meet growing demand from utilities across North America.

As local utilities look to save money and increase their use of clean energy by tapping into low-cost and low-carbon local resources, Camus' grid management platform provides connectivity between the utility's operations team, its grid-connected equipment and customer devices.

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