via Government Technology
The topic du jour across government and the electricity industry is the smart grid and the amazing efficiencies it will bring to the nation. There’s also, however, a growing chorus about potential cyber-security dangers as new smart grid infrastructures are designed and installed across North America. Is it real, hype or somewhere in between? Let’s start by defining the smart grid and then some of those security issues.
Depending on who you ask — whether a vendor, utility, consumer or the government — you’ll likely get different answers about what a smart grid is. It’s probably most accurate to describe it as a vision for delivering electricity rather than something wholly tangible. Certainly technology is a big part of it, but the smart grid also includes planning, public policy, regulatory oversight and even consumer participation. Without getting too technical, the smart grid overlays the existing electricity generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure currently serving North America so reliably, with digital technology that provides more efficient delivery and accurate measurement of consumption.
Quite simply, the smart grid vision provides for a decentralized and automated network of delivering electricity by enabling interoperability and two-way flow of energy and information with sensors to monitor key attributes of the grid. When implemented, this vision offers a more granular detail of electricity flowing on the grid, giving both the electric industry and consumers more control. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “The smart grid brings the philosophies, concepts and technologies that enabled the Internet to the utility and energy grid.”