How Secure is Smart Grid??? Read this and answer it for yourself.

We received this press release this morning from GE Energy. While we applaud GE and its customer for being in the forefront of Smart Grid technology, we continue to wonder, reading the release, where the security provisions come in.

GE Helps the United Kingdom Meet its Goal of Placing Smart Grid Technology in Every Home by 2020

Trial Project Brings Together the Technology and Resources of GE Energy and Scottish and Southern Energy for Smart Meter Home Study

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM—June 8, 2009—GE Energy smart meters are helping prove the value of a smart grid in the United Kingdom as part of a government-sponsored Energy Demand Research Project (EDRP). GE is committed to assisting the U.K. government meet an objective to have smart meters in every home by 2020.

Using smart meters as information collection and reporting devices, the EDRP study tracks energy use by time of day. The in-depth research is uncovering the effects of various savings strategies on household energy consumption. The strategies include: reporting consumption to households via a visual display, reporting consumption on the household’s TV screen, making consumption information available via the Internet, using alarms that go off when consumers reach certain consumption levels, tariff rewards for reducing overall energy consumption and lower rates for consumers who move energy consumption to “off peak” hours, for example, running a dishwasher at night. (underlining added --ed.)

“As the test progresses, we are learning about consumer behavior and how smart meter technology can help save on energy bills,” said Andrew Monks, EDRP program manager at Scottish and Southern Energy. “Thanks to the help of GE technology and GE engineers, we will be able to plan for a more efficient, cleaner energy future across the United Kingdom.”

During the study, officials will determine the ideal technology deployment strategy to maximize cost and energy savings with U.K. power users.

The trial uses state-of-the-art ZigBee communication protocol, which is becoming an accepted standard for home automation. It delivers full, multi-way communications between consumers, meters and a centralized information storage server, demonstrating the communications capabilities of advanced GE metering without investing in specialized communications systems. (underlining added --ed.)
 
“We are thrilled to see the United Kingdom leading the move to smart grid technology and bringing all the benefits to its consumers,” said Keith Redfearn, general manager of GE Energy’s transmission and distribution business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “We’re prepared to apply the experience GE has gained around the world to help the effort succeed.”

The EDRP study also is serving as a platform to promote energy-saving awareness and the potential benefits of smart consumption to citizens across the United Kingdom. Homes in the trial are located in North Leigh in Oxfordshire.


“Smart meters are the foundation for the smart grid in Europe and a critical component to help maximize the productivity and performance we can squeeze from our infrastructure,” Redfearn said. “GE is planning to establish a European Smart Meter Centre of Excellence in the United Kingdom to support the design, assembly and testing required to deploy smart grid technology throughout the European Union.”

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  • There is already significant interest in hacking Zigbee.  Some of them are successful to a surprising level of sophistication. 

    Remember, this Zigbee standard uses unlicened radio spectrum.  If it is interfered with, have-a-nice-day.  There is no recourse.  That's what unlicensed operation is all about.  You don't have to license it, but in return, you have no legal basis to expect it to work. 

    So what recourse will the smart grid people have when this stuff gets hacked or interfered with? 

    It might be worth asking the question, NOW, before anyone invests significant money.

    Jake Brodsky

    Reply

  • It isn't only about hacking Zigbee...it is about the necessity of having "IP to the edge" as Cisco is fond of calling it, for Smart Grid to work using mostly COTS components. There doesn't seem to have been any real forethought-- not until very recently-- about how to secure a Smart Grid. Heck, there is dispute about exactly what a Smart Grid is!

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