We all know that the smart grid as a lot of potential—increased efficiency, possible incorporation of renewable resources, comprised security. If that last one gave you pause, it should: Among all the challenges and opportunities associated with the smart grid, of greatest importance is the reliability of the infrastructure itself—including its ability to thwart security breaches, hacks, and any other manner of assault.
It’s common knowledge that the US government is keenly aware of the smart grid’s cyber security issues. In fact, for a while now, the NIST has been coordinating recommendations and concerns into its Smart Grid interoperability standards. According to the feedback the NIST has received, the general consensus seems to be that, while a closed and proprietary system would provide the most secure infrastructure, most manufacturers and venders believe that “open, standards-based solutions offer the best defense to ‘harden’ the grid and reduce cyber attacks.” The recent discovery of the Stuxnet worm, designed to penetrate the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems that monitor and control generation, transmission, and distribution operations in electric utilities, underscored the fact that terrorism can be conducted remotely and bloodlessly to effectively cripple businesses or nations.
So what do you think? Is a centralized smart grid more vulnerable to cyber (and real world) attacks than our current energy infrastructure? Are VPPs —with their ability to coordinate microgrids and switch between energy sources to optimize reliability—the solution to energy infrastructure security? And should we even be focusing on the cyber security of some yet-to-be-constructed smart grid when the coming workforce gap threatens to diminish the ranks of skilled labor by 45–50%, as experienced technicians are lost through retirement over the next few years?