Study suggests increased concerns with cyber security and SCADA system reliability

June 14, 2005
Newest findings from electric power control center officials indicate that the pace of automation spending on energy management and SCADA system upgrades on the North American grid still is not as robust as it should be.

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 [email protected].