The three largest California investor-owned utility companies: PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E have joined together with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) to address cybersecurity and grid integration in a project called, California Energy Systems for the 21st Century (CES-21). It plans to use the most advanced analytic tools to create a new methodology for cybersecurity and grid integration, but how will it go about acquiring the necessary information to run the tests? Will it use private customer information? The details are not yet clear to the public.
CES-21’s first project, “Machine to Machine Automated Threat Response”, will seek to improve the grid’s detection and automated capabilities to perceived infrastructure threats to its reliability, resiliency and customer information privacy.
The research that the CES-21 project is proposing will utilize all of the advanced computer modeling, simulation and analysis of complex systems that the LLNL has to offer — LLNL has promised that “high-performance computing will be the backbone of the CES-21” — while the utilities will provide the necessary expertise in power generation and transmission.
According to SDG&E, the cybersecurity research will follow a five-phase approach: 1.) Situational Awareness of the Smart Grid Infrastructure; 2.) A high level description of the Smart Grid information infrastructure and evaluation of the efficacy through controlled experiments in a test bed environment; 3.) Identify and prioritize the threat environment and threat actors; 4.) Simulate cyber attacks; 5.) Identify protective tools, processes, and standards.
The Machine to Machine Automated Threat Response project will require an in-depth look at the SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system, architecture, substations and even the smart meters themselves. Though, it is examining all levels of data acquisition down to a private residence’s smart meter, it is not clear what customer information will be shared between the partners in this or any subsequent phase of the cybersecurity project.
The CES-21 collaboration is an important and valuable undertaking, but it is imperative for the parties involved to communicate how confidential and sensitive information will be used while creating a more “secure” grid.
The California Energy Systems for the 21st Century (CES-21) project, began in 2014, and will run for five years with a budget of $35 million.