Intrinsic Security Design for Tomorrow's Energy Systems (Text Version)

Below is the text version for the video Intrinsic Security Design for Tomorrow's Energy Systems.

Interviews with Juan Torres, associate laboratory director of Energy Systems Integration, and Jonathan White, Cyber-Physical Systems Security group manager

Juan: NREL's in cybersecurity, and in fact it's paramount that we're in cybersecurity because the technologies that we work on are so important to the future of our national energy security.

Jon: This is a lab that's very much focused on the future, and I think people view cybersecurity as a very concerning, kind of a doom and gloom perspective. But as we're designing this future grid, we have the opportunity to make the future a lot more reasonable and lot more safe.

Jon: The biggest evolution on the United States electric grid is the massive deployment of renewable energy and grid edge devices. Things on the grid edge would be electric vehicles, smart home devices, home management systems, new batteries and distribution systems, and all of these evolutions are providing a more responsive grid that's more efficient and cleaner. But, unfortunately, it also makes more internet-connected devices, and those internet-connected devices all provide opportunities for cyber adversaries to get control of devices and equipment to cause damage and ramifications that we really don't intend.

Juan: There's still numerous threats to the grid. Everything from external hackers, criminal terrorists, foreign nation states. But there are also internal threats, things in the supply chain that could be embedded, could be disgruntled employees. So there's a variety of threats that we have to be aware of and that's what makes it more challenging. We have potential physical consequences to the power grid from a cyber-attack.

Jon: And so to keep ahead of that we have to have an exponential growth in mitigations.

Juan: Our cyber physical security research here at NREL is focused on increasing security of a lot of the energy technologies that are changing. How we use energy, where we use energy, how we generate energy.

Jon: We're leveraging both physical knowledge as well as our modeling tools and our experimental to research cyber physical vulnerabilities working from the physical system back to towards the control system back towards the control signals and back into the network.

Juan: Some of the research that we're conducting includes incorporating encryption, authentication in technologies where it hasn't actually been embedded before.

Jon: We have the ability to explore any kind of number of vulnerabilities and threat actors in a very safe environment, one in which we control. We can also use the same environment to explore new devices, new systems, new architectures, new control. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, future autonomous systems, we're conducting research on how these systems might actually operate the grid in the future so that they can isolate systems that might be compromised.

Jon: The vision of our research here at NREL is really getting away from a patch culture, which you could think of as a reactive culture, and moving to one that's proactive, where as the systems are being designed, we're actually designing in the security architectures that are intrinsically safe from the very beginning.

Juan: The end goal of the research is to assure that we maintain a secure energy infrastructure a reliable energy infrastructure and do it in a cost-effective way.

Jon: The future grid, which inherently is going to become more distributed, more interconnected and it's going to function very different from the grid we have today is one in which security is one of the most fundamental tenants on which it is designed.