Thursday, July 7, 2016

Should Power Grids Put Their Critical Digital Systems Off?

Power delivery systems worldwide are under heavy stress: physical stress and stress caused by shareholders and hackers and ... The stress is heavy often due to very limited resources that hinder engineers to improve the system very much.

Some people believe that the solution may be lying in going back to the Old Days! They want to spend USD 10.000.000+ for studying to go ,Back to analog and non-digital control systems, purpose-built control systems, and physical controls. Who has said this? ... some 20 years ago? No: this month!

The motto of some US congress man seems to be: Get rid of state-of-the-art technology.

A corresponding bill was assigned to a congressional committee on June 6, 2016:
Click HERE for more details.
Click HERE to download the text of the bill [pdf].

Click HERE for a discussion published under

Does this mean the end of digital protection and automation systems? The end of communication according to IEC 61850, IEC 60870-5, DNP3, Modbus, ...?

What is needed? More well educated engineers that can use the digital technology in a way that the power delivery system can be managed securely and that become able to understand how the technology can be applied in order to re-start the power delivery system after a blackout.

I would like to see 10 per cent of the budget (USD 1.000.000) spent into education for protection, automation, SCADA and communications engineers. Have you ever tried to get approval for attending a training course for advanced protection, automation, SCADA, and communications like IEC 61850, or ...??

My experience after I run more than 230 courses worldwide and educated more than 4.100 engineers is this: many engineers that have asked me for a quote to conduct an in-house course or attending a public course had to give up due to budget restrictions!!

The other USD 10.000.000 could be spent for improving the digital based equipment as Cris Thomas, a security expert (see link to above), said: "Instead of spending two years and $10 million exploring ways to downgrade critical systems with even more outdated tech, we should instead invest that time and money into transforming security for the technology currently in place, and into building next-generation security features directly into future technology."

If utilities want to change the way the run their assets the management and stake holders should listen to the engineers!! And follow their recommendations! This is even more crucial in case of implementing more physical control done by human beings!

Badly educated engineers could do more harm than well operating machines.

Whatever we want to do to "ruggedize" our power delivery system, we need more well educated and experienced engineers. Retiring senior engineers with 52 years (to reduce costs) is not a real option! Or? We need you all! And we need young people to study electric power systems and information technology.

Click HERE for some additional discussion by myself (German version).

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