Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Smart Grid and the Smart Hackers

I’ve been seeing a lot of buzz around how insecure utilities are in the past few weeks and I just wanted to take a moderate opposition to some of the dramatics.
While it’s true that the power of smart grid comes from bringing the internet to the electric infrastructure, putting things on the internet does not mean the hackers rule world, not yet at least. Most analysts site potential risks such as holding a utility ransom, by either threatening to take a city’s power down, or doing it, and then unrelenting until someone pays up.
This type of extortion has been seen with denial of service attacks for years, but not so much on US soil. In the US the penalty for such illegal acts is pretty costly, and as much as you can still get some anonymity online, once you start receiving money you become much easier to track. Imagine if you took a city of the power grid for a few hours, someone would be investing lots of money into finding you quickly.
The part about this that makes me most skeptical is that this type of an attack is possible on any institution, shutting down business for a day is expensive, and you could bring up this risk for any industry from banking to telecom (and these two industries have led the way to “getting online”). Although with banking, they might be doing us a favor by shutting things down for a few days.
None the less, I haven’t heard of Bank of America or AT&T having their networks held for ransom. They’ll say that the IT industry has had more then 10 years to learn how to avoid hackers and that utilities and all too new to this game. I don’t see these companies going it alone though, there is a lot of IT involved in Smart Grid and any utility that is serious about moving into the intelligent grid future is going to have lots of help.
Plus utilities are not as clueless as everyone makes them out to be, the backbone system that people are afraid of compromising is called SCADA, and there are already standards in place such as NERC CIP to ensure that these systems are on separate networks that are offline.
Now with that said, if you don’t follow the security protocols that are in place, there will of course be issues, just as if you were to ignore all of the media’s warning, something bad is bound to happen, but I would say take what you hear with a grain of salt.
Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) is going to be popping up all around you, and you probably won’t even notice until they ask you if you want to be on a variable pricing rate, so I wouldn’t worry too much, unless you are using remote desktop to view your SCADA system as you read this…

Monday, March 30, 2009

New Marketplace for Energy Efficiency

Washington, D.C.: A federal agency Thursday ordered the operator of the nation’s largest marketplace for electric power to allow energy efficiency projects to compete directly with electric power plants.  The new head-to-head competition was ordered to begin with an auction this May to purchase the resources needed to meet peak power demands during the summer of 2012.   The auction will be run by PJM Interconnection, Inc., which coordinates electric grid operations serving 51 million people in 13 states and the District of Columbia, and operates the nation's largest competitive wholesale electricity market. 

“This is a major breakthrough for consumers,” said Steven Nadel, Executive Director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).  “New investments in energy efficiency should help lower the cost of meeting the peak demand for power on hot summer days.  The PJM auction will provide a new source of funding for efficiency projects, allowing the savings to consumers to grow.”

The article goes on to explain that this will change the way energy efficiency is thought about, shift the light from only energy savings to include the contributions to reducing peak demand.

Nathan Shetterley (nathan.shetterley@gmail.com)
EVO New Media Director

Monday, March 23, 2009

Wholesale Electricity Markets Remain Competitive

A small win for wholesale electricity markets, marketwatch explains.  The article explains:

"Our analysis concludes that the results of the PJM markets in 2008 were competitive," Bowring said. "At the same time, the report recommends rules and rule changes required for continued competitive results and for continued improvements in the functioning of the markets."

Nathan Shetterley (nathan.shetterley@gmail.com)
EVO New Media Director

Friday, March 20, 2009

A wider view of M&V

Just the other day, when I opened my front door to leave for work, I saw a man with a big stick peering quizzically into an inspection pit (I still call them ‘man-holes’) in my front garden. When I asked him what he was doing, he explained there was a sewage leak. I asked him was it a leak from my house, or the neighbor? “I don’t know sir” he replied, “…it’s a leak”.  “But where exactly?” I asked.  “We don’t know sir, we have to inspect ALL the pits in your community, because we have no monitoring or detection system”. 
From an article at constructionweekonline.com I thought that this wider look at the low-tech reality of most facilities managements was interesting.

Nathan Shetterley (nathan.shetterley@gmail.com)
EVO New Media Director

Saturday, March 7, 2009


Scouting around the web this morning I found this site, www.dsireusa.org, I thought I'd share.  For those of you looking for a little extra money to get your energy efficiency project off the ground it might be a good spot to start looking.

From the site:  DSIRE is a comprehensive source of information on state, local, utility, and federal incentives that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency. Choose one or both databases to search.

Nathan Shetterley (nathan.shetterley@gmail.com)
EVO New Media Director

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Defining energy efficiency

I received the follow in an email chain and want to share it with you.

These types of misconception about energy efficiency are everywhere, hopefully this brief presentation will help shed some light on the subject.

We have a very interesting debate going on at the moment.  The issue is how a company should measure its overall energy efficiency savings, should they use energy intensities, indicator benchmarks, or total energy reduction.  From an M&V point of view we are quite clear on it, but there is quite uncertainty in the market on how it should be done.


You have one school that supports energy intensity.  Duirng the past few years with the economic boom they ran maximum production.  This reduced the energy intensities and they were claiming energy efficiency.  Now with the drop in production they are all operating at higher energy intensities, thus they have "lost all energy efficiency". 


The other schools look at overall energy use, and now they are claiming "savings"???


Attached is a presentation I made to try and illustrate to them how energy efficiency savings should be determined.  I hope you find this interesting.

Nathan Shetterley (nathan.shetterley@gmail.com)
EVO New Media Director