Securing DERs: Two Mega Trends Made Real for Municipal Utilities
From a survey of 70 Municipals, according to the July 2017 Municipal Utility Outlook presented by Zpryme, Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) and Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) are, amongst others, projected to be top spending areas. These spending areas are not mutually exclusive, rather, grid edge DERs should and can be protected with robust cyber security defenses.
The nation’s fleet of bulk power and centralized generation resources could cause widespread harm to the grid if left vulnerable to malicious intent. NERC Reliability Standards for the Bulk Electric Systems of North America are established with specific actionable standards related to Critical Infrastructure Protection for these Critical Cyber Assets. On a smaller scale, yet just as important, local decentralized sources of generation can impact regional grid reliability as well. When deploying grid edge DERs, consider the following:
Can I manage DERs from a centralized location?
Yes! DERs (e.g. utility-scale solar, rooftop solar PVs, energy storage, backup generators, etc.) are becoming more common and widespread. Due to their operational nature, establishing secure, near RT two-way communication is essential for bringing telemetry and other data into a centralized Distributed Energy Resource Management System (DERMS), and to facilitate outbound command and control of their assets. There are gateway-based devices in the market today that can be deployed with a DER asset/s for such a purpose, but not all are created equal, especially when it comes to cyber security defense.
Do I need a proprietary communication back haul to facilitate that?
No! Find a gateway that securely leverages available public networks, such as one that utilizes cellular or broadband (ethernet, wireless) based back hauls.
Can a single gateway type work with a variety of DERs?
Yes! The advancement of technology creates a variety of viable DERs with each providing their unique value to a distribution grid. The harnessing of those grid edge assets should be a common link with a common head end. One gateway device type that provides a variety of asset interfaces methods and speaks a full library of industry protocols is the answer.
Are gateways ruggedized enough for an external outdoor environment?
Yes! DERs are often located outdoors in geographically dispersed locations and expected to be subjected to harsh weather elements. Look for a gateway solution that is not only flexible in terms of connectivity, but also one that is hardened for severe weather elements including: temperature and relative humidity. Also, ensure the enclosure fully meets NEMA 4 and 6P standards.
Can DER connectivity really be secured?
Absolutely! For securely integrating DERs into your operation grid operations, OATI offers GridControl. GridControl is a unique software solution designed and manufactured specifically by OATI to fill the industry need for highly secure communications and command and control of all types of demand-side assets including DERs. Here is what sets our gateway-based solution apart from others:
GridSafe! OATI GridSafe™/℠ is a patented Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) authentication and security process that allows smart grid devices and distribution assets to securely communicate with control center operations using common wide area networks — such as the Internet — as well as private networks or, in hard to reach locations, cellular networks.
GridSafe ensures the security of the OATI GridControl™/℠ system, which provides data acquisition and asset control of Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) and other grid-edge devices connected to OATI GridPort™.
GridSafe uses the same industry-leading security infrastructure that underpins OATI’s solutions for wholesale bulk power markets across North America, including OATI webCARES, a PKI and Certificate Authority (CA) that has passed rigorous industry and security standards audits, such as NAESB WEQ-012, Webtrust, and CA/Browser Forum, and operates from OATI’s NERC Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP)-compliant data centers.
When embracing DERs in your Municipal Utility’s generation stack, think about how you are going to establish connectivity with your operations and how important it is to ensure connectivity is secured.
OATI GridControl™/℠ system, and our GridPort gateway devices provides data acquisition and asset control of DERs and other smart grid devices to support DR programs and other applications. OATI GridSafe™/℠ provides robust data encryption and cybersecurity protections for communications over the public Internet and other networks from GridPort-connected devices to the GridControl headend.
About the Author: Linda Stevens is Sr. Director of Sales for OATI’s Grid Modernization solutions. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Management and Leadership from Concordia University, St. Paul, MN. Ms. Stevens has dedicated her career to the energy industry. She began in an Investor Owned Utility where she learned firsthand about utility operations. This experience transitioned to an energy industry software and technology sales career path with Siemens and, eventually, to OATI. Through a network of direct OATI sales executives, key technology alliances, and an industry leading distribution channel, she drives the strategic sales initiatives for OATI’s Grid Modernization (or Smart Grid) portfolio, with an emphasis on solutions for Cooperatives and Municipals.