Cover Story

Smart grid The right security partner

Growing demand for electricity and also customer expectations of uninterrupted quality electricity supply is putting added pressure on an already ageing asset infrastructure. This is increasing the requirement for optimising grid assets. Here is an in-depth analysis on what security solutions are being provided for the smart grid

Traditional maintenance strategies are expensive and non-feasible in today’s day and age. Strategies such as reactive maintenance or run till failure strategy are a low cost strategy resulting in long downtime upon failure. This can be implemented for non-critical assets wherein cost of asset downtime can be borne by utilities.

Preventive maintenance or scheduled maintenance is widely implemented across utilities and is a safe strategy; however, it is economically not the most optimised strategy. This is good for critical assets; however, they lead to unnecessary downtime of assets. Yash Kulkarni, CTO, OrxaGrid Ltd says, “Recent advancements in technology, specifically lower costs of electronics and hardware sensor along with improvements in data analytics and machine learning, is enabling predictive maintenance strategy that ensures optimised maintenance and maximum uptime of grid assets.”

Security solutions for smart grid and critical infrastructure
Speaking on the implementation of IoT in smart grids, Kulkarni says, “At OrxaGrid, we are leveraging the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine learning technologies for optimising smart grids. Our specialised Asset App provides performance Insights into utility assets and assigns predictive score on the health of the asset. Our IOT sensors monitor and report real time multiple variables for each asset. The information is utilised by our AI cloud platform to define residual life on assets. Assets such as distribution transformers are critical to smart grid applications and has been the prime focus at OrxaGrid.”

He further suggests that, security and optimised utilisation of distribution transformers is critical to smart grids due to the changing nature of the loads it caters to. “Studies indicate increasing EV charging stations, feedback from rooftop solar and other non-linear loads will increase technical losses and increase overall stress on the ageing grid assets. Utilities require adopting new technologies for efficient monitoring to ensure secure and quality supply to the consumers,“ he adds.

Issues with IT and electrical distribution of critical equipment are usually discovered too late when a major breakdown happens resulting in operational losses and expensive, time-consuming, urgent maintenance. “This exposes the assets to serious risks. Hence, it is necessary to secure the systems and manage assets wisely,” says Kulkarni.

Anil Kadam, Solution Architect & Marketing- Energy & Utilities and Smart Cities, Schneider Electric India, says, “Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Asset Advisor brings a proactive approach to electrical distribution and critical data centre assets, combining IoT and cloud-based technologies with experts and services for business continuity.” The solution provides the ability to anticipate and address issues before they become critical incidents, mitigating safety risks, avoiding unplanned downtime, operational losses, and expensive maintenance interventions.

Importance of meter data management system
Smart grid projects are capital intensive in nature and require mass rollout across a utility network for effective use of the system. It is, therefore, very important to select the correct solutions. Meter readings and billings are an integral part of ensuring the economic viability of the electricity sector as income of the entire electricity supply value chain begins from the end consumer meter reading and flows up to the generation end. Traditionally, these were manual systems with the primary focus of revenue collection.

However, Kulkarni explains, “With the advent of rooftop solar and consumers moving toward prosumers along with being actively conscious of their consumption patterns, meters and meter data management systems are required to perform many more functions outside of simple bill generation. Meter data with the correctly tuned analytics can provide deep insights on consumption patterns, and enable utilities and prosumers to actively work together to provide cleaner more reliable electricity supply.”

OrxaGrid developed analytics such as demand forecasting or loss estimation can identify inefficiencies in the network for further optimisation. Programmes such as demand response can enable conscious consumers to actively participate to optimise consumption patterns and reduce peak loading on networks.

According to Kadam, “Smart grids ensure efficient connection and provide automatic and real-time management of the electrical networks. They allow users to manage their consumption, optimise the level of reliability and improve the existing services, which in turn lead to energy savings and lower costs. Selecting the right metering data management system allows to measure energy consumption and production, which help utilities control the energy and be efficient in term of cost and time.”

Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure smart metering advisor establishes a seamless integration of multiple, disparate data sources, including most AMI head-end systems, RTUs and IEDs. It aggregates this data element into a common storage management platform. This approach allows it to function as an operational data store as well as a meter data management system, providing utilities a single, secure platform through, which meter data is enriched and analytics can be applied.

Modernising communication networks
Electricity sector is traditionally a conservative industry due to the critical nature of the industry. Therefore distribution utilities are naturally slower at adopting consumer technologies or new technologies. Moving from large generation stations to EHV transmission substations to the complex distribution network within a city, typically follows an exponential increase of grid monitoring nodes. Kulkarni explains, “Traditionally, sophisticated and expensive grid monitoring technologies were implemented only at generation and transmission nodes. However, falling prices of electronics such as sensors along with lowering costs with higher reliability of wireless telecom networks within a city has enabled the possibility of monitoring of distribution grid nodes.”

Wireless communication technologies such as NB-IOT, LoRa and other LP WAN networks, are secure, low cost and dedicated channels for smart meters and smart sensors data communication from end nodes to processing centres. Cyber security remains a great threat to utilities; however, smart sensors as those manufactured by OrxaGrid come with inbuilt anti-tampering. Merging on IT and OT at distribution utilities is another mass rollout project of great significance to enable legacy systems and silo systems to integrate into one platform and unlock hidden potential of integration.

However Kadam says, “While modern communication networks are critical in making the grid more reliable and efficient, a smooth migration that does not disrupt the legacy applications is key.One thing that holds companies back from modernising their digital strategy is the amount they have invested in legacy systems.”

It is a misconception that digitisation has to include scrapping existing technology and starting over again. Companies do not have to demolish their entire digital infrastructure to take the advantage of modern technology. There are various methods to adapt legacy systems to meet the demands of today’s business world without starting from scratch. Schneider Electric’s substation operation, combined with improved interoperability, connectivity and security, helps to increase productivity and reduce costs by upgrading aging infrastructure without compromising legacy systems.

Our specialised Asset App provides performance Insights into utility assets and assigns predictive score on the health of the asset
Yash Kulkarni, CTO, OrxaGrid Ltd

Modern communication networks are critical in making the grid more reliable and efficient, a smooth migration that does not disrupt the legacy applications is key
Anil Kadam, Solution Architect & Marketing- Energy & Utilities and Smart Cities, Schneider Electric India

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Most Popular

To Top