Power and Energy

 

Since the cyber attack of Ukraine’s power grids in December, 2015, it is clear that traditional ICS, SCADA and off-the-shelf operating systems in substation present imminent vulnerabilities for cyber attack. As the OT networks in critical infrastructures and IT-based control layer devices are more and more interconnected, there have been more loopholes exposed to cyber intruders. Since the energy infrastructures are highly critical to the economic well-beings of the societies, a successfully penetrated attack would cause devastating effects to the enterprises, the government and the people. Therefore, it is necessary to implement an industrial-grade network gateway to secure the industrial communication networks and protocols as most cyber attacks come from this channel.

Utility institutions today are operating globally and relying on substation automation systems to have a secured and reliable solution for controlling and monitoring status of the substations and grids. Historically, substation automation structures involve multiple proprietary protocols which consist of numerous remote thermal units, PLCs, HMIs and plenty of computing systems to be wired together. This implementation usually results in heavy hardware investment, high engineering development time and high maintenance costs due to wiring redundancy and customized communication protocols. In fact, there could be compatibility issues among the automation devices from different vendors.

To reduce carbon emission, renewable energy has become one of the most discussed subjects regarding utilities. Among these, solar energy is the most anticipated source of renewable energy. In fact, many countries have already implemented solar PV plants in communities, commercial areas and industrial zones.

Traditionally, industrial control systems (ICS) like SCADA used to be isolated for its sole purpose of performing mission-critical tasks and controlling the processes within important infrastructures such as oil refinery, power plants, manufacturing factories, water/sewage treatment and energy plants. Therefore, these systems are built with conventional structures and operate in multiple decades of lifespan. However, with the increasing complexity in hardware design and the implementation of open network due to convenience and cost-effectiveness, ICS environments are vulnerable towards cyber threats. There have been incidents of cyber attacks over the past few years and thus ICS security has presented a great challenge. The following will discuss the issue in details and introduce robust platforms that can act as a gateway controller in packet inspection, whitelisting and protocol filtering.

The mounting concerns for climate changes have had many governments seek out feasible energy solutions that are more environmental friendly and less exhaustible; one of the more popular and better developed renewable energy solutions is the solar energy and the reason being solar power systems convert readily available and inexhaustible sunlight directly into electricity with solar cells, leaving almost no carbon footprint.

In order to strike the right balance between maintaining the most reasonable cost and ensuring the strictest facility management, system automation is usually depended upon for facility monitoring and process control. The key for successful substation management therefore lies in establishing efficient communications between control centers and off-site automation systems.

The global energy shortage is now a global crisis. And actions such as energy substitution are being taken to avoid the serious social and economic implications such crisis could potentially bring. Governments around the world have been tackling the energy shortage by implementing technologies to tap into renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. However, such technologies, when compared to the more conventional power generation solutions, are far from cost-effective. Therefore more emphasis is now being placed on energy conservation and how it can be achieved. In order to conserve energy in an immediate and large-scale manner, most governments have drawn and put into effect energy and power related regulations to not only encourage effective energy usage with incentives but also to discourage wasteful energy consumption with penalties.

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