ADSC researchers receive EMA grant for enhancing power system resilience
According to ADSC’s Binbin Chen and Daisuke Mashima, Singapore’s power grid is undergoing fundamental changes, as the number of intelligent devices (e.g., smart meters, remote terminal units, intelligent electronic devices, and distribution automation devices) is growing rapidly to provide the power grid with real-time sensing and control functionalities.
“At the same time, distributed energy resources (DER), such as rooftop solar panels, battery energy storages, electric vehicles, and demand response, are making their ways to our grid,” Chen said. “They are going to change the power flow dynamics and complexity of our grid, especially in the distribution part of the grid.”
These changes to the grid have increased concerns about cybersecurity risks and these risks are now an urgent and high-priority action item on the agenda for all power grid operators, particularly after the 2015/2016 Ukraine blackout.
Chen and Mashima are working together on a project that specifically looks at developing a device to improve the power grid’s situational awareness and minimize the impact of cyber-attacks.
The three-year project, which was jointly proposed with A*STAR’s Institute for Infocomm Research (I²R), Mirai Electronics, and Accenture, was funded by the Energy Market Authority of Singapore (EMA) in July 2018. They are one of seven projects funded by a $15 million grant working to strengthen the resilience of power systems and energy markets. This is ADSC’s largest grant outside of core funding where they are the host institution.
“ADSC is recognized as a leader in power grid cyber security in Singapore because of the strong expertise from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) in this area and several projects that we have been a part of,” Chen said. “For this grant, we’ve put together a strong group of partners to work with, including I²R, Mirai Electronics, and Accenture. We will also work closely with our academic partners including National University of Singapore (NUS) and Michigan Technological University.”
Their project will focus on cyber security and resiliency on the low-voltage distribution level substations at the edge of the power grid.
“The edge of the grid needs to be able to have more control, requires more protection and is becoming more complicated,” Chen said. “The edge used to be very dumb and would do whatever the main center asks it to do. We want to make the edge more intelligent so it can adapt by itself if it detects an attack.”
The project aims to develop novel distributed intelligence and adaptive infrastructure solutions to address this need.
“By distributed intelligence, we mean that our solution can be deployed with field devices to gather local power system or cyber information and conduct data-driven analysis to detect anomalies and pinpoint root causes,” Mashima said. “By adaptive infrastructure, we aim at giving these edge devices the capability to make autonomous local adjustment when needed, by blocking potentially harmful control commands, or by adjusting the communication paths to bypass portions of networks that misbehave or malfunction.”
ADSC specifically will be developing an intrusion detection system while combining the cyber side with the physical side of information from the smart grid. That will be used to support a SCADA command authentication mechanism that is responsible for evaluating legitimacy of control commands under up-to-date power grid context. The prototype they’re hoping to develop, called ResiGate, will be deployed as a gateway in substations so that it can mediate incoming remote control commands as well as network traffic at all levels in substation local area network. A light-weight version of ResiGate, called ResiLite, will target for deployment in smart metering infrastructure or DER systems to monitor and ensure quality of communication.
“By looking at both the cyber side and the physical side, we’re hoping to be able to answer questions such as ‘Is this a cyber-attack or just some faults in the system?’ with higher confidence,” Chen said. “We will also explore machine learning techniques to deal with this problem.”
I²R will be working to develop network resiliency solutions, as the communication part of the smart grid system is subject to many different disturbances. The researchers are hoping to explore a secondary network to help in responding to disturbances and guaranteeing the high reliability and high fidelity in the smart grid communications.
“One challenge is to understand the need of power grid applications,” the I²R Co-PI, Dr. Sun Sumei said. “We need to figure out what the most important messages are and how to send them out quickly. A secondary communication channel could help with that if the main network is totally or partially down and become not sufficient to support all traffic. We could redirect some of the most critical traffic to a secondary network.”
Another component of the proposal is developing virtual tripwire devices, which work as a sensor to raise an alarm if there is suspicious action within the smart grid infrastructure.
“We’re working on designing and implementing virtual power grid devices and using them to improve cyber side awareness,” Mashima said. “By monitoring access to these devices, we can know what is happening in a system and the system can immediately initiate response actions.”
In the end, the researchers are hoping their solutions will provide the smart grid with better situational awareness, an additional layer of checks for all incoming commands and improved smart grid survivability when communication failures do occur.
“Singapore is proud to have one of the most stable grids in the world,” Chen said. “The grid has been very reliable but because of its evolution to become future-ready, there is a strong need to integrate more renewable energy and manage various risks and costs at the same time. We hope our project will provide some system level solutions to help with this goal.”
This research is supported by the National Research Foundation, Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore under the Energy Programme and administrated by the Energy Market Authority (EP Award No. NRF2017EWT-EP003-047).