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Transforming Research Capabilities for Power Systems Cybersecurity with NREL's Cyber-Energy Emulation Platform

June 1, 2020

Digital graphic of NREL's cyber-energy emulation platform.

Researchers use the CEE Platform to simulate energy system environments, such as a commercial building load, electric vehicle chargers, and smart homes with solar power and diesel backup.

A new National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) technical report, “NREL’s Cyber-Energy Emulation Platform for Research and System Visualization,” details a milestone capability at NREL to develop, emulate (or computationally reproduce), and visualize interconnected power and communications systems for the study of cybersecurity for distributed energy systems.

The Cyber-Energy Emulation (CEE) Platform allows researchers to virtually generate any number of energy system environments, with the ability to connect to actual physical devices throughout NREL’s Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF). It also allows for the comprehensive visualization of entire distributed energy systems—utility power grids, cities, military bases, or other communities—to allow researchers to explore the potential consequences of a cybersecurity threat, analyze its impact on the power system, and identify mitigation response strategies.

For example, the CEE Platform can emulate a distribution network of a commercial building load, electric vehicle chargers, and smart homes with solar power and diesel backup—and introduce a cyber attack scenario. Researchers can then analyze the system’s response, zeroing in on its resilience to the event and identifying the potential for system-level security solutions. The platform uses system and network virtualization, power simulation, real-time data streaming, and power hardware-in-the-loop capabilities to generate these research environments and evaluate real-time operations of energy networks.

The capability, which was developed with laboratory-directed funds, will simultaneously support ongoing laboratory-wide research at NREL and other contained simulation experiments. The CEE Platform is continually being developed and refined as it provides analysis of responses and forensic details of real-time and historical data in response to unusual incidents, collation of data sets for the development of machine learning, hardware evaluation for system security and resilience, and an immersive visualization environment for education and training researchers in cybersecurity and power systems engineering.

Learn more about NRELs work in cybersecurity for a modern grid.