Energy Security

Energy security experts at the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) are looking at the potential of cyber and physical threats to our evolving energy infrastructure as more connected, more distributed energy devices come online.

Photo of a researcher on the computer sitting at a desk and two researchers standing in front of a large monitor emulating a real-time cyberattack.

With new threats facing the grid, it is crucial to strengthen the tools and know-how to guide our energy transition as securely as possible. By evaluating new grid technologies and energy systems for their security and resilience, analysts can pinpoint potential threats in the early stages of technology development.

The ESIF's flexible cyber-physical research capabilities allow researchers to assess the security of distributed energy resources and the control systems that support them. With the facility's Cyber-Energy Emulation Platform—an emulated grid environment that connects to real devices throughout the ESIF—researchers can visualize and evaluate the interdependencies among power systems and network communications flows while safely exploring vulnerabilities and mitigation effectiveness.

The ESIF's power-hardware-in-the-loop simulation capabilities also allow cybersecurity analysts to perform penetration tests for evaluating the security of utility networks—and the security of new grid devices before they are deployed. NREL provides utility companies across the country with site assessments to evaluate existing security controls, identify gaps, and offer prioritized action items to improve organizational protocols.

The ESIF Advantage

Cyber-Energy Emulation Platform

The Cyber-Energy Emulation Platform generates emulated, multilayer grid environments that allow researchers to visualize and evaluate the interdependencies among power systems and network communications flows. This unique capability makes it possible to safely explore energy system vulnerabilities and mitigation effectiveness by integrating hardware throughout the ESIF—such as solar inverters and electric vehicle chargers—with the virtual environment. The real-time visualization application provides a visual layer to the platform for dynamic use case demonstration, allowing analysts to view the power flow, communications, and security alerts for a given system under a variety of cyber-threat scenarios.

Learn more about NREL's research and development in cybersecurity for an evolving grid.


Jonathan White

Director, Cybersecurity Program Office