A smart grid is a system that uses communication and information technology for generation, delivery and consumption of energy and power. A smart grid also enables more flexible energy delivery with available switches to renewable power sources when required.
Investments in smart grid technology are expected to rise over the next few years, especially as part of the efforts to achieve reduced carbon emissions. Smart grids function to organize energy generation around the needs of consumers and are thus able to ensure maximum production while minimizing costs and environmental impacts. Although the deleterious effects of worsening weather is evident on traditional grids across the globe, the development of smart grids is concentrated within China, Europe and the US. In addition, grids depending on hydropower in tropical regions are at risk of reduced output due to drought, making smart grid technology essential in those areas as well. Events due to climate change, in part caused by emissions from these systems, will continue to interrupt energy production if it is not adequately automated.
Smart grids are also employed in other industries that require information exchange between suppliers and customers such as the transportation industry. With its vast implementation, smart grid technology is estimated to be worth about 36.9bnUSD. Of this, 4.73bnUSD is contributed to cybersecurity. This is especially important because smart grids are not free from challenges. Vast amounts of information are contained and exchanged within smart grids, making them prone to cyber attacks. These attacks can result in loss of productivity and cause socio economic crises in affected areas. Consumer information is also contained within grids and private information may become exposed and used to track the customer’s habits and activities. In addition, the sheer number of electronic devices required for the functioning of smart grids present multiple points of entry for malware and cyber threats to infiltrate. This is worsened by the fact that some of the hardware that contributes to a smart grid may be located remotely and is more vulnerable to damage by saboteurs.
Smart grids possess unique challenges to the security of energy delivery that are usually not present in traditional grids. For this reason, effective solutions for these problems require technology-based solutions.
Pattern Recognition: AI and ML techniques can be used to guard against threats by detecting unusual activity from pattern recognition of complicated attacks. This can then be quickly identified and addressed to prevent compromise of systems and theft of personal information.
Smart Meter Security: Smart meters are usually spread out across the grid and to various geographical areas that are being supplied. This makes them particularly vulnerable to attacks and a lot more difficult to monitor. AI systems can function with sensors to detect possible threats to the meters.
Grid Monitoring: The behavior of various components of the grid can be monitored using AI so that sudden changes in functioning can be quickly detected. These changes may occur as a result of attacks and early detection can minimize the damage to the systems.
Financial Security: Transactions as well as other information regarding energy purchase and supply can be encrypted from end-to-end by systems, thus preventing theft of data.
Challenges and Conclusion
Although AI provides several opportunities to secure smart grids, a few possible challenges have been anticipated in the use of these technologies to ensure smart grid cybersecurity. Some of these include the fragmentation of these systems and difficulties in determining the best alternative for success. In addition, AI systems themselves are not free from attacks and may become vulnerable if not well managed. Regardless of this, the introduction of smart grid technology is sure to revolutionize energy distribution and supply and it is expected that available systems will also evolve to meet security needs. Together, smart grids along with well tested and monitored security systems will contribute to the goal of optimization of energy production and distribution and promotion of sustainable energy.