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Richard Brooks's picture
Co-Founder and Lead Software Engineer Reliable Energy Analytics LLC

Inventor of patent 11,374,961: METHODS FOR VERIFICATION OF SOFTWARE OBJECT AUTHENTICITY AND INTEGRITY and the Software Assurance Guardian™ (SAG ™) Point Man™ (SAG-PM™) software and SAGScore™...

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  • Jan 31, 2021
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I commend EPSA for raising this very timely and important topic and for expressing the need for greater diligence to protect the electric grid from bad guys in the software supply chain.

The Path Forward  

As the SolarWinds breach shows, while cyber and physical security issues can arise from individual decisions or errors, these issues can affect much broader swaths of the economy. For this reason, all participants in the supply chain must continue to focus on threats to the system as a whole, in addition to the individual parts under their control.  

Any day with a service disruption is a day that a competitive power supplier is not able to provide reliable, least cost, cleaner electricity to customers – interrupting Americans’ ability to go about daily life, conduct business and keep critical emergency services online.   

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Thank Richard for the Post!
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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jan 31, 2021

Richard, debatable whether competitive power suppliers make our power grid any stronger or more reliable than the regulated, single-producer power grids that served so well for nearly a century. Mulitple sources mean multiple points of entry; multiple players mean multiple priorities and conflicting interests. Complexity breeds vulnerability.

If anything it's analogous to public power in the 1880s, a time when multiple sets of wiring shared the same transmission poles, when each block had its own power generating station - and it was a nightmare. Fires were common, linemen would cut each others' lines, standards were non-existent.

Another lesson of history we're apparently doomed to repeat.

Richard Brooks's picture
Richard Brooks on Feb 1, 2021

Thanks, Bob. I liken this transition from central power stations to distributed DER to the transition that occurred in the 80's from mainframe central computing to individual PC's and LAN Servers that took place. The mainframes didn't go away when the PC's arrived, they transformed to provide different services in a client-server architecture. I expect some of these central plants to provide "grid services" in the new frontier of the energy transition, but some central power stations will go away.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Feb 1, 2021

That's a fascinating analogy Dick. And while the potential attacking tools are mos sophisticated now than they were then, so too are the defenses. As with all of these discussions, though, the trouble is how high the stakes are and how we all agree that there can be no compromise in the security of the grid. 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Feb 1, 2021

I'll take issue with your analogy in two regards:

1) The arrival of the PCs permitted people of modest means to afford the advantages of personal computing enjoyed by big business - with word processors, spreadsheets, bookkeeping. They could do many jobs they did with typewriters or pen/paper faster and more efficiently. A truly competitive environment lowered the cost so anyone could afford one.

DERs (in the form of solar panels/batteries) are only available to businesses and affluent homeowners; others are forced to cross-subsidize the costs of transmission and reliable generation. Through taxes, they're forced to cover the costs of exorbitant subsidies.

2) Generating/transmitting power electricity, unlike information, has environmental impacts that affect everyone:

"While Wall Street rejoices over an untapped market, the surge in home generators is raising questions among environmental advocates about increased pollution, carbon monoxide poisoning and fire hazards."

As California burns, generator companies make a power grab

To my knowledge there's no evidence electricity from DERs creates fewer GHG emissions, is safer, is less expensive, or consumes fewer natural resources than electricity provided by centralized power plants, with multiple economies of scale at their disposal.

In sum: what's great for rich people might not be great for everyone else and the environment (seems to be a recurring theme).

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