New EPRI Programs to Study Threats to the Industry

EPRI has launched two new programs intent on strengthening the U.S. energy infrastructure’s overall reliability. One program addresses the physical toll on the aging grid; the other studies new Internet-borne threats.

The Reliability Initiative is a two-year EPRI program designed to study the root causes of recent power outages and to identify ways to reduce the risk of future reliability problems. Industry deregulation has brought many economic benefits, according to EPRI, but the transition to a more competitive market has led to an upsurge in reliability issues. Power outages in the United States have increased significantly in recent years.

A major challenge to the system has been the increased volume of transactions, according to EPRI. In two sample control areas, the number of transactions swelled 464 percent over the last four years. Accompanying this increase has been a change in power flows to new patterns with previously unseen magnitudes and directions for which there is minimal operating experience. “Add to this a strong economy that has driven peak demand and energy consumption rates beyond those originally projected, and you can begin to see the problem,” said Karl Stahlkopf, EPRI’s power delivery vice president. “The transmission system is being used in ways for which it was not originally intended.”

By this summer, EPRI expects interim results from the Reliability Initiative that can provide immediate help to reduce the risk of outages. Over the next two years, EPRI plans to conduct assessments of the three North American interconnections and provide guidance for reliability enhancement.

With another initiative, the Enterprise Infrastructure Security (EIS) program, EPRI aims to address the threat that Internet-based attacks pose to the energy industry. Recent hacker incidents brought e-business to a halt on several high-profile Web sites, and there is growing concern that similar attacks could interrupt the interdependent systems that support the global energy infrastructure. The EIS program was created to focus on such security issues and their effects on the energy industry.

“Our immediate focus is on the vulnerabilities of the electronic systems that monitor and operate our business systems and provide critical communications within and outside the energy business,” said Charlie Siebenthal, EIS program manager. “In the long term, the EIS program will shift its emphasis to the design and management of electronic security activities that will augment a company’s existing physical security programs.”

The EIS program will consist of workshops covering broad program issues, in-depth electronic security technical issues and legal issues. Participation is open to any company actively engaged in the production, transportation, distribution or sale of energy.

The first EIS workshop is scheduled for April 26-28 in Orlando, Fla. Details are posted on the program Web site at eis.epri.com.

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