Study suggests increased concerns with cyber security and SCADA system reliability

NEWTON-EVANS RESEARCH Company has released a summary of preliminary findings and observations from its newest study of transmission and distribution monitoring and control systems used in North American electric utilities. The new study has attained a very strong participation rate among more than 200 utilities that collectively represent nearly 45% of all T&D assets and more than 40% of North American end use customers.

Highlights of the 2005 study of mission critical, real-time electric utility systems, including energy management, supervisory control, and distribution network management, are:

  • Many utilities now operate outage management systems (OMS) separately from their SCADA system, with an additional 10% of the respondents planning to implement a separate OMS by 2007. More than 15% indicated that their outage management applications would remain integral to their SCADA or distribution management system (DMS). Some reported OMS capabilities are limited to trouble ticket tracking.
  • Generation management systems are also experiencing an increased level of activity this year, at least among those vertically integrated utilities serving more than one half million customers. Most others (75%) continue to rely on automatic generation control (AGC) applications resident on their distribution SCADA systems for linking to power generation or power supply resources.
  • UNIX continues to be supported as the preferred operating system for control and monitoring systems developed for use by large and mid-size utilities at the master station application server level. Windows versions are favored for operating systems used in field-based sub-systems and equipment, as well as at the master station level for small utilities, and at the user interface level. 
    • LINUX is rapidly gaining favor as an acceptable alternative operating system among utility control center operations staff and management.
    • Hewlett-Packard processors continue to dominate the platforms used for energy management and larger SCADA and distribution management systems. IBM and SUN processors follow. At the pc level, a mix of brands, led by Dell, is used as platforms of choice by various systems integrators.
  • Linkage to other utility enterprise systems continued to be on the increase, despite concerns for “optimizing security via isolation,” with the key being non-real-time access via periodic downloads to authorized requestors, or indirect access to and from the control system via historian files.
    • The most frequently mentioned plans for additional links this year from control center systems were reported to be geographic information systems (28%), OMS (25%), and customer information systems (19%).

More information on the Newton-Evans Research series entitled: Worldwide Market Study of Energy Management Systems, SCADA and Distribution Management Systems in Electric Utilities: 2005-2007 is available from the company located at 10176 Baltimore National Pike, Suite 204, Ellicott City, MD 21042. Telephone: 800-222-2856 or 410-465-7316. E-mail information requests to mnewton@newton-evans.com.

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