ICT – The key for successful infrastructure protection
Interview with Aurelio Blanquet from Portuguese electricity operator EDP
One of the most critical infrastructures for the functioning of economy and society is the energy grid. Preventing outages and protecting the energy grid against natural disasters and man-made damages is, thus, one of the central challenges for Europe. This raises the question of how it should be done and which role ICT plays in protecting the energy infrastructure.
Eurescom mess@ge editor-in-chief Milon Gupta asked one of the key responsibles in the European energy sector, Aurelio Blanquet, who is Director for Automation and Telecontrol at Portugal’s major energy provider EDP. Energias de Portugal, EDP, ranks among Europe’s major electricity operators.
What are the central issues for critical infrastructure protection in the energy sector?
Blanquet: The main issues in the energy sector, from the perspective of EDP Distribuição, are security and reliability. Both are needed for the protection of critical infrastructures. In our case this concerns the energy distribution network and, mainly, the 400 high voltage substations which EDP Distribuição, as Portuguese distribution system operator, is responsible for. In running this infrastructure, cost efficiency is a very important requirement for us. So, what we need for EDP Distribuição are inexpensive and reliable sensors.
How could information and communication technologies help increase the level
of infrastructure protection?
Blanquet: ICT is one of the most important vehicles for increasing the level of infrastructure protection, because it may allows sensing in a simple, inexpensive and effective way.
Nowadays, in energy distribution networks, sensing is fundamental for the development of intelligent distribution systems to boost the utility efficiency, increasing the automation of business processes. That’s what EDP Distribuição is doing in its Inovgrid project, where we think that wireless technology plays a key role. In fact, this is also why EDP Distribuição is participating in the WSAN4CIP project.
Aurelio Blanquet, EDP
What measures will you take to ensure that EDP’s communication channels work in critical situations, like network outages?
Blanquet: Throughout the years EDP Distribuição has developed several initiatives to strengthen its communication network, creating redundancy of telecommunication circuits and using different technological solutions. Sometimes, we have to deal with adverse conditions, mainly wheather-related, and our systems have been very responsive in these cases, proving that we have been doing a good job in the last years.
How will EDP use ICT to tackle current and future challenges for its infrastructure?
Blanquet: At EDP Distribuição we know that ICT is one of the keys for the success of our corporate strategy and business plan.
The market is changing. And EDP Distribuição has a strong commitment to a new sustainable electricity market. This includes integrating distributed energy resources, micro generation and electrical vehicles, increasing end-use energy efficiency, optimal assets exploitation and improving reliability and quality of service.
ICTs have a huge challenge, which includes leveraging the utility strategy through the potential of the technology and in-depth knowledge of the electrical market. It also requires driving the technology evolution and the development of intelligent distribution systems.
Which task do you regard as most important for critical infrastructure protection
in the European energy sector in the next five years?
Blanquet: I think that the most important issue for critical infrastructure protection in the energy sector will be Cloud Computing.
In this context, EDP Distribuição is also participating in another European project of the 7th Framework Programme, which is called Trustworthy Clouds - Privacy and Resilience for Internet-scale Critical Infrastructure, short: TCLOUDS. The project goal is to explore the potential of Cloud Computing in critical infrastructures. Security is one of the issues that is not yet very well defined, and so the project will try to give an answer in this area.