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Smart grid will improve utilities' mobile work force efficiency, comes with security risk

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Tuesday, October 11, 2011

In the current electric grid, most utilities cannot access real-time data communications that are available in the field. Workers begin their shifts by checking in and receiving work orders and schedules, oftentimes on paper. Though some use laptops to download and upload data in office, very few have the ability to access information in the field as easily as they can from a stationary office.

This is the case because many manuals, maps and other documents have not been digitized, and many utilities haven't invested in new automation technologies.

But in the next 10 years as smart grid deployment becomes more prevalent, utilities will begin using new applications and efficiencies, according to Electric Light and Power.

As power distribution centers across the country become more intelligent, utilities workers will gain access and control remotely from anywhere in the field, at any hour of any day of the week. Utilities will benefit greatly from the efficiencies the new grid will present, and will allow for much easier management of several functions.

With the advent of remote access to substation data, geographic information systems and asset tags can be fitted to any asset that will allow utilities to monitor power supply with increased visibility from anywhere in the field, the news source stated.

As power management involves coordinated and proactive monitoring of the system's data, the new grid will enable utilities to access data remotely during a power outage, immediately identifying the problem and allowing the company to quickly develop a solution.

However, with remote access comes the threat of cybersecurity breaches, a topic that has recently led to heated debates among lawmakers and utilities.

At the recent EnergySec Summit West, smart grid experts from around the world convened in San Diego to address the issue of security and monitoring.

The leaders discussed the recent California Public Utilities Commission ruling that questioned primary uses of energy consumption data, which is readily available to utilities and possibly other data aggregators, agencies and other government entities, according to the Energy Collective.

In order to expedite the deployment of the smart grid, solutions providers are developing ways to meet the need for remote access in a secure environment.

SUBNET has developed solutions that offer remote access and also help generation, transmission and distribution companies meet the North American Electric Reliability Corporation critical infrastructure protection standards by leveraging existing assets and using established IT policies.  

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