The electrical system is essential to our daily lives and the economy as a whole. Disruptions to the company’s systems may have catastrophic consequences.
Despite the fact that reliable electric power has been a fundamental human need for more than a century, the electric grid is now more vulnerable than ever to a rising number of dangers.
Several specialists in the industry talked with Dailion about the grid’s vital role in society — and what might be done to strengthen the backbone of the country’s transportation infrastructure.
With the increasing rate of adoption of electric vehicles, “electricity is an essential commodity that drives daily life, business, and essential services,” according to Hala Ballouz of the Electric Power Engineers. “Electricity is a critical commodity that drives essential services such as other critical infrastructure such as security systems, communications, gas delivery systems, and even transportation,” she added.
“Electricity consumption by households and companies varies by the second, and for some of the gadgets used by these end-consumers, by the millisecond,” she said. The power grid is responsible for the essential and complicated task of balancing the energy produced with the variable energy demands of consumers.
In order to secure the electrical grid, various measures must be put in place to ensure that it is properly protected.
Any danger or interruption to the grid has the potential to cause a disruption to the system, which may result in a failure to provide consistent energy supply to homes and businesses, as well as other essential infrastructure, according to Ballouz. According to her, “the system must always be able to react instantaneously to continually changing operational circumstances, including handling outages in the infrastructure of the power grid’s vital delivery system.”
Because of the digital nature of the contemporary world, the grid has become even more important to our way of life. Disruptions in the electrical grid may result in catastrophic scenarios, some of which are potentially life-threatening.
Dailion quoted Mike Edmonds, the chief business officer at S&C Electric Company, as saying that as the globe gets more computerized, “reliable power will become more crucial.” The company says that whether consumers are enjoying a beautiful day or are caught in the midst of a terrible storm, they want their electricity to stay on. Even while utility measurements and regulatory requirements urge utilities to offer a high degree of dependable electricity to their consumers, such measures often result in a gap between what the customer is really experiencing and what the utility standards need.”
The electricity system is under attack from a multitude of sources, both natural and man-made. Any system designed to secure the power grid must take into account all of the potential threats.
“Physical dangers to the power system include meteorological disasters such as fires, floods, protracted cold snaps, and storms, which may cause direct damage to grid infrastructure and interrupt fuel and resource supply, as well as rising cybersecurity threats,” added Ballouz.
Hard cyber-physical attacks, such as when a hacker gains access to and manipulates a device, are more common than soft cyber-physical attacks. A soft cyber-physical attack, such as when a hacker manipulates metered data, results in erroneous decision making by the operator in response to falsified information, is more common than a hard cyber-physical attack.”
These significant threats are often high-impact, low-frequency occurrences that occur infrequently. She cautioned that although they may not occur often when they do, they may inflict enormous economic harm and even death.
The severity of weather events is growing as a result of climate change, presenting an increasingly major hazard to the power infrastructure.
In an interview with Dailion, Steven Naumann, chief technical adviser for Protect Our Power, warned that “natural disasters and man-made threats may have a catastrophic effect on the power infrastructure.”
‘The vast majority of people are familiar with severe storms such as Superstorm Sandy, which caused power outages throughout the Northeast; Hurricane Maria, which caused a total blackout of Puerto Rico; the extreme cold weather that affected the grid in Texas in February 2021; and the extreme heat that has affected California as a result of wildfires.’
Aside from this, he pointed out that “space weather, in the form of solar storms, may have an impact on the electrical system.”
The consequences of climate change are complex and unexpected in and of themselves, as is the climate itself.
Ric O’Connell, executive director of GridLab, told Dailion that increased heat due to climate change lowers the efficiency of thermal generators and transmission lines. “More frequent and more violent storms may also cause damage to the electrical infrastructure,” O’Connell said. “In addition to threatening power lines, forest fires and their smoke pose a hazard to power lines.”
Almost every component of the power system is an appealing and possibly profitable target for bad actors who may take advantage of the relatively cheap access to it and the significant consequences of a power grid failure.
“The two most significant sorts of man-made risks to the electric system are physical assaults on the grid and cyberattacks on the grid,” Naumann said. According to the report, “Cyberattacks are now the most concerning, particularly when launched by nation-states such as Russia, China, Iran, or North Korea.”
In order for the electricity system to be more resilient to threats, it must first be made more difficult to take down and maintain stability.
As Edmonds indicated, utilities may use a variety of techniques in order to develop a more dependable and more robust grid. A smart device that allows for enhanced grid segmentation is one of the most effective ways to ensure that an outage affects the smallest possible number of consumers. By segmenting the grid and deploying smart devices that can autonomously test for faults, restore power, and reroute the grid, utilities, and their customers may reduce the effect of outages.”
Subterranean utility system construction and the use of new technology are examples of measures that may be utilized to improve and safeguard the grid infrastructure.
The undergrounding of utility systems, which allows for the creation of mesh networks, and the replacement of traditional fuse technology with automated re-energizing technology are two more strategies, according to Edmonds. “Both techniques have the potential to prevent transient mistakes from becoming long-term problems.”
The increasingly complex grid necessitates the development of advanced threat-mitigation solutions that keep pace with the grid’s evolution.
As Ballouz pointed out, “Problems with electric systems may spread and worsen extremely fast if sufficient protections are not in place.” “The electric industry has created a network of defensive operating techniques for sustaining dependability. These tactics are founded on the notion that equipment may and will fail unexpectedly on occasion, and that this will happen more than once.
“This concept is embodied by the need that the system is managed in such a way that it will stay in a secure state in the event of the unexpected loss of the most essential generator or transmission facility,” says the author.
Another prerequisite for a secure and resilient electricity infrastructure is a collaboration between different organizations….
In order to recover quickly from significant impact threats, teamwork amongst all stakeholders in a system that is built to recover quickly from the event is required, according to Ballouz. It is no longer adequate to concentrate on grid-scale equipment when developing such systems in the past, even if it is a crucial priority in the present. The increasing number of active players and technologies at the grid edge necessitates the need to concentrate on properly defining the architecture of this expanding system, as well as the duties and responsibilities of each stakeholder, both from the standpoint of economics and dependability.”
Given the many dangers and vulnerabilities that exist today, it is critical that everyone works together to secure a system that is becoming more complicated and, as a result, increasingly vulnerable.
According to Naumann, “utilities and the government must work together to guard against developing threats and to strengthen the robustness of the electric system.”
According to him, “resilience comprises not only steps to prevent an attack, but also efforts to reduce the negative impact of any successful assault, as well as the capacity to quickly recover from the impacts of any attack.”
As dangers grow, investment, training, protocols, and exercises must also evolve to keep pace, and utilities and the government must then act on what they’ve learned, according to the report.