Security Issues of Communication Networks in Smart Grid

Security Issues of Communication Networks in Smart Grid

Gurbakshish Singh Toor (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore) and Maode Ma (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1829-7.ch002
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The evolution of the traditional electricity infrastructure into smart grids promises more reliable and efficient power management, more energy aware consumers and inclusion of renewable sources for power generation. These fruitful promises are attracting initiatives by various nations all over the globe in various fields of academia. However, this evolution relies on the advances in the information technologies and communication technologies and thus is inevitably prone to various risks and threats. This work focuses on the security aspects of HAN and NAN subsystems of smart grids. The chapter presents some of the prominent attacks specific to these subsystems, which violate the specific security goals requisite for their reliable operation. The proposed solutions and countermeasures for these security issues presented in the recent literature have been reviewed to identify the promising solutions with respect to the specific security goals. The paper is concluded by presenting some of the challenges that still need to be addressed.
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The ever growing demand of energy all over the globe has compelled a shift from the traditional power distribution system to a more sustainable and efficient system incorporating the advances of information technology and communication and networking technologies. This new energy infrastructure is envisioned not only to provide more optimal energy consumption and better real-time power requirement assessment but also to incorporate renewable energy generation sources at both consumer and provider sides for environment friendly power generation. The future grids will allow a two-way flow of energy and information (Zhang et al. 2011) between the consumers and the utility to conquer these future goals.

This evolution brings forward the deployment of smart appliances and smart meters at the consumer end (Zaballos, Vallejo & Selga 2011), capable of not only monitoring the power utilization but also optimizing it via real time evaluation of the energy flow in the power infrastructure, thus enabling the consumers to contribute to the smart future. These smart meters not only report the power consumption to the grid but also allow the grid to send control signals to the user end appliances in order to manage the power consumption based on dynamic pricing, peak consumption hours, system load requirements etc., making the users more energy aware (Ipakchi & Albuyeh 2009).

Smart grid deployment provides benefits to both the consumer and the utility ends in multitude of scenarios. Smart grid communication infrastructure allows the monitoring of real-time information regarding the power generation, transmission and user consumption. This data collaborated with the market price set by the service provider or by the users generating power at their end (renewable energy sources), will allow to rate the energy dynamically rather than having a fixed rate at all times. For instance, if the user wants energy resource during peak hours, they have to pay higher amounts. Thus by referring to these dynamic prices the users can optimize their utilization to reduce their bills and enables the service providers to help maintain efficient grid operations and automated management (Kim et al. 2014).

Smart grid infrastructure supports the exploitation of renewable energy at both the consumer and provider ends. This approach will reduce the burden on the environment to meet the current energy needs. Also the users producing the energy can sell it to other users or to the utility based on the market price or by negotiating their own price (Wu et al. 2012).

Smart grid also provides improvement in load shedding, the power supply is intentionally switched off under critical situations to avoid damage to the grid system. If the demand suddenly increases in a particular section or the supply of power significantly shortfalls to meet the demand, the demand has to be reduced instantly to stabilize the grid. Usually high priority feeders feeding to hospitals, water supply stations etc. are the last ones to have the impact and the first ones to recover in such a scenario, whereas the residential and commercial sectors have the lower priority. However, if due to time limitation selection cannot be made, the high priority sections could be impacted first as well (Hassan, Abdallah & Radman 2012).

Although smart grid deployment provides multiple benefits, the implementation of such infrastructure demands the deployment of an efficient communication system between the various entities of the system. The architecture of such a network tends to be highly distributed, heterogeneous and complex, incorporating different communication standards and resources. Every entity should be able to communicate with any other entity in a time sensitive scenario in such a complex network to achieve the desired outcomes. Such degree of complexity provides various venues for the adversaries to compromise the security of the system. The corresponding consequences resulting from these vulnerabilities can range from minimal harm, to entire system shutdown. Such impacts may lead to economic collapse, terrorist invasion and even loss of lives. If the users or the governments cannot trust the reliability of the system, the benefits will be easily over shadowed by the possible threats, defying the deployment of this novel future technology.

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