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Managing utility IEDs remotely while ensuring NERC CIP compliance

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Monday, April 16, 2012

Across the country, more utilities are beginning to explore vendor-specific password, security, faceplate and display capabilities of substation intelligent electronic devices (IEDs), making it more difficult to access and manage the passwords to all of their different substation IEDs. These installations are also complicating compliance with NERC CIP standards, hindering utilities' ability to operate efficiently.

To confront this problem, SUBNET developed its SUBNET IED Management Solution - PowerSYSTEM Center, which addresses these challenges by integrating IED access management and password management.

The challenge of interoperability has arisen as electric utility systems and processes - though consistently effective - have evolved over time. These changes have complicated a utility's ability to perform crucial functions, such as remote access, substation information management and NERC CIP compliance. While investing in these technologies will create a more intelligent power grid, interoperability will be a major challenge as utilities attempt to integrate many different legacy devices from a wide range of vendors.

As utility personnel who access data from utility assets go about this process, they will be faced with two major challenges. First, they will need to remotely access and manage data from IEDS in order to optimize operation, maintenance and asset management while meeting corporate goals. The next challenge lies in performing these duties successfully while meeting NERC CIP requirements. SUBNET's whitepaper breaks these two challenges down in more detail.

While these technological advances bring about interoperability and security issues, the benefits of these breakthroughs, such as the ability to remotely interface with and access data from several devices, will ultimately help utilities operate more efficiently. Power companies can use remotely acquired data to adapt IED settings as needed, help analyze and correct line faults, identify optimal timing to repair or replace equipment, among other benefits.

However, these remote access capabilities are potentially eliminated by stringent NERC CIP standards. First introduced in 2007, these standards went into effect in June 2009, which require that utilities create authorization and authentication methods for access to remote IEDs. For instance, one standard states:

The Responsible Entity shall establish,
implement, and document technical and procedural controls that
enforce access authentication of, and accountability for, all user
activity, and that minimize the risk of unauthorized system access.

SUBNET's PowerSYSTEM Center effectively helps utilities manage substation passwords while ensuring NERC CIP compliance. Such an action should be top priority for utilities, as failure to meet these standards can result in fines of up to $1 million per day.

SUBNET IED Management Solution addresses this challenge by providing features and benefits in two main areas: Access management and password management.

The system helps utilities manage access to IEDS, both local and remote, allowing them to perform a wide range of operational maintenance and asset management tasks. With the system, IEDs are automatically connected, saving personnel from having to learn the process, procedure or parameters needed to access the devices. This freedom enables managers to focus on their jobs, not the complicated task of accessing IEDs.

PowerSYSTEM Center also automates the password management process for all IEDs, strongly supporting compliance with NERC CIP. The system allows administrators to make password changes at pre-scheduled times, on demand, or manually as required. Without any additional hardware installed on the substation, administrators can grant and control local IED access through the system.

For more information, come to the IEEE PES T&D Conference and Exposition in Orlando, Florida May 7-10, 2012, and stop by SUBNET's booth #1763 for the latest in substation automation technology.

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