The Foundation of a Future-Proof Grid

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The Foundation of a Future-Proof Grid

It is essential for a future-proof grid to be resilient and secure. Today’s tools such as artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), and a robust communications network paired with cybersecurity are all needed to support the ever-changing grid requirements of today. After all, this is not the grid of your grandmothers’ era and in 2021, old-fashioned methods will just not be sufficient.

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To satisfy tomorrow’s power requirements, a future-proof grid will be smart, interconnected with a mix of innovative technologies for generation, transmission and distribution, delivery, and control.

The importance of edge devices is apparent through results attained from their usage. Tools such as advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) and grid sensors in distribution automation, can act as a key for the system operator to maintain the grid’s integrity. These tools have become valuable and essential to ensure today’s grid functions at the highest capacity.

Considered integral to the modernization of power utilities, AMI and intelligent network sensors also are necessary for improved efficiency and competitiveness. There are now demands for near real-time visibility on energy consumption, hot spots, and brown-outs, according to Mel T. Migriño, the Meralco Vice President and Group Chief Information Security Officer. Brandishing another potent interconnection of networks and objects like the internet of things (IoT) will most likely transform the grid in ways not feasible before. 

Grid Fortification looks like IoT + Cybersecurity

“The best ways to wield IoT as an enabler for the growth of the smart grid evolution would be with the infusion of analytics, intelligent sensors, and automation in the electric grid, power plants, electricity networks which could reduce operations and maintenance costs,” Mel suggested.

IoT is a powerful system on its own, and by embracing IoT with big data management, grids can become self-healing and predictive. The data gathered by IoT is transforming the way utilities operate, but the data must be managed for optimal results, and then that data and the grid must be protected with effective cybersecurity. 

“I believe that IoT together with cybersecurity must all work together for the best outcome,” Mel believes.

According to Mel, utilities should be prepared to marry pillars such as global cooperation, understanding future networks, and technology or building cyber resilience with IoT and other smart grid tools, and only then will the smart grid be truly secure and optimized.

The Aspect of Grid Communication Networks

Advanced communication networks are also an integral part of the grid of the future. The smart grid is an integrated communications network to gather and analyze data from the transmission lines, substations, and customers. Capturing and managing all the data available across the network, Mel believes smart devices within the smart grid infrastructure can provide predictive information to suppliers and customers on how to manage power best. 

“Real-time communication through smart meters in industrial and of course households can know where the peak demand, overall is really about efficiency in the operations and accurate and faster response that would really matter at the end of the day,” Mel described. 

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As part of the communication equation, wireless field area networking (FAN) has become fundamental in modernizing the grid, but it has also added complexity to the grid modernization process in a couple of significant ways. An extensive network brings a larger attack surface that needs to be protected, which can be challenging when securing the infrastructure.  

“The potential ingress point of attackers is wider. The solution that would be needed to secure such would be bigger and would require more investment. If we add wireless in this mix, we substantially increase the level of a potential threat as the attacker can potentially be anywhere as long as the signal is available,” Mel highlighted. 

Much like the transformative nature of tools such as IoT and effective, enhanced communication, cybersecurity is vital to the success and survival of utilities. The current risk setting will necessitate a diverse approach to security and safety, a more holistic and integrated approach tailored to the challenges at hand. This can be done, but it will take the success of organizational adoption, an integrated scope, and sustainability of the safety and security programmes.

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