Apr 7, 2020

Siemens advises the energy industry on cyberattacks

Utilities
Technology
Energy Policy
William Girling
3 min
In an era of increasing reliance on the digital world, companies in the energy sector must be more vigilant than ever regarding cybersecurity
In an era of increasing reliance on the digital world, companies in the energy sector must be more vigilant than ever regarding cyb...

In an era of increasing reliance on the digital world, companies in the energy sector must be more vigilant than ever regarding cybersecurity.

To address this issue, German multinational industrial manufacturing company Siemens has produced an online guide to assist corporations’ comprehension of what a cyberattack consists of and how to prevent one. 

Citing research from Poneman Institute, Siemens considers the risks posed towards utility companies in particular far more damaging than other companies: whilst the latter may only compromise financial information, the former could jeopardise the operation of vital services.

Planning ahead

No matter how adequately an energy company deals with a cyberthreat after it has already infiltrated the business, there is no denying that the best offence is a solid and thorough defence.  

“Strong cybersecurity IR (incident response) begins before an incident occurs and

continues long after normal operations have been restored,” says Siemens. 

Therefore, the company recommends following carefully arranged ‘steps’ which are interlinked and form a self-perpetuating cycle:

Preparation: Energy companies should allocate specific teams and job roles for staff trained to handle cyberthreats, who should then prepare a methodical response programme which can be easily deployed when needed.

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Identification: Familiarity with a system during normal operations will help to recognise abnormalities faster. 

Containment: Once an incident has been identified, the next course of action is to isolate the spread of ‘infection’ and prevent the compromisation of multiple systems. This can be difficult for energy companies, which emphasises the importance of planning.

Eradication: Forensic teams must get rid of the threat with a view to restoring normal operations as soon as possible. Backing up essential operations should be given paramount importance.

Recovery: Following the elimination of the cyberthreat, energy companies should restore critical functions and perform system integrity checks. Evidence should also be collected on the nature of the threat and how it was dealt with.

Lessons learned: After normal service has been restored, all evidence and documentation associated with the attack should be compiled and analysed in order to inform any subsequent changes that need to be made. 

“In the same way that the physical safety of a plant depends on many people understanding their roles and responsibilities to ensure the availability and safety of operations, cybersecurity is a collective undertaking,” Siemens says. 

“Teams that have built and practised an IR playbook in advance of a breach will perform better than teams forced to improvise every time.”

For more information on energy digital topics - please take a look at the latest edition of Energy Digital Magazine.

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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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