New study of SCADA and energy management systems finds increase in adoption of cyber security defensive measures

Ellicott City, MD, Mar. 25, 2008 — The Newton-Evans Research Co. released preliminary findings and observations from its multi-month study of transmission and distribution monitoring and control systems used in international electric power utilities.

Early highlights of the international 2008 study of mission critical, real-time electric utility operational systems including energy management, supervisory control, and distribution network management include the following:

* Outage management: Nearly one half of the international utilities surveyed so far this year have implemented a separate outage management system (OMS). This reflects a strong increase from 2005’s 30 percent of responding utilities reporting having a separate OMS at that time.

* Power generation management: Generation management systems (GMS) are also experiencing an increased level of activity this year, at least among the early international respondents. In the 2005 study, only a handful of participating international utilities had reported use of, or plans for, a separate GMS. The percentage this year has risen to 21 percent thus far into the study.

* Linkages to external systems: Linkage to other utility enterprise systems continued to be on the increase on a global scale; despite cyber security concerns. For many sites, the key to remaining secure seems to be either: (a) the restricted provision of non-real-time access via periodic downloads to authorized requestors or (b) indirect access to and from the control system via historian files. The most frequently mentioned plans for additional control system links this year from managers at international control centers were reported as: geographic information systems (24 percent); enterprise application integration (24 percent) and customer information systems (20 percent). The key linkages already in place included historical recordkeeping systems and files, power plants, other utilities and an enterprise wide area network. North American utilities were likely to be linked up with these as well, but with a lower percentage of utilities involved than at their international counterparts.

* External services required: By early 2008, about one-third of the international respondents, and one half of the North American respondents indicated a current need for one or more of the nine listed “services” that could be available from external service providers. More than one third of North American respondents now require training services, followed by “long-term maintenance agreements.” Among international utility officials, commissioning and testing of new systems was in demand. Installation support and maintenance agreements followed. By 2010, utilities around the world plan to bring in outside help to conduct vulnerability assessments.

* Smart grid initiatives: Just as there are important variances with regard to communications protocols, control systems supplier rankings, and new product development objectives within the global electric power community, so too are there differences in priorities for focusing on “smart grid” initiatives. International utilities are placing more emphasis at this time on automating the distribution network and upgrading their control systems, while North American utilities are more likely to emphasize automated metering infrastructure as the priority task for enabling the smart grid.

Want to stay Current? Listen to Currents: The Energy News Podcast brought to you by Utility Automation & Engineering T&D and Electric Light & Power online. For a list of all available episodes, click here and start listening today. And for more news and exclusive features from Utility Automation & Engineering T&D and Electric Light & Power online, please click here.

Previous articleFERC joins investigation into Florida blackout
Next articleFERC accepts PJM tariff revisions to address volatility, risk

No posts to display