Protecting the Grid’s Future: Cybersecurity & DER Solutions

As solar and energy storage expands -- and the digital cloud grows -- so does the number of potential vulnerabilities in the electric grid. During an in-depth Smart Renewable Energy session on digitalization, energy clouds and big data, three industry experts from both the technical and business-facing sides of the energy industry explained current cybersecurity threats and simple practices companies can take to improve grid protections.

In his opening remarks, Keith Rose, vice president of HiQ Solar, provided an overview of the American electric grid’s cyber security systems, as well as the strategies the solar industry can deploy for grid security. "For each residential home in the United States, you have six potential hacker entrances," Rose said. "We're trying to protect millions of doors into our grid." Rose also shared a 2015 Industrial Control Systems (ICS) report showing all cyber attacks on industrial systems. Half were targeting energy and water systems. He discussed why cybersecurity hacking takes place and basic strategies hackers can take to impact and control our grid.

Building on Rose’s presentation, Daniel Roesler, co-founder & CEO of UtilityAPI, discussed the importance of protecting energy data and simple tactics to improve both personal and company data. "Energy data is no longer isolated in just one place." said Roesler. "You now have DER parsing energy data that is personally identifiable information that should be kept private." He explained the herd mentality of IoT security, and described how smart devices can be linked together in a botnet to facilitate digital attacks. Roesler then launched into a discussion of simple actions individuals and companies can take to handle their energy data securely. He explained how to use HTTPS-enabled websites to securely share data and reiterated the importance not sending sensitive data as attachments in an email.  

Eric Clifton, CEO of Orison, was the last of the three experts to speak, and took a less technical approach to cybersecurity and cloud-controlled energy in our shifting grid. "Our utility companies really like business as usual," Clifton said. "We see them trying to reinvent themselves, but at the end of the day, their business strategies are barely moving the needle." He shared roadblocks that are currently hindering the all-electric conversion for both the automotive industry and the U.S. electric grid. Clifton believes utilities need to implement simple services to put the customer experience first.