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Utilities Get "Defense"-ive

How cutting-edge military technologies can help solve some of the industry’s most critical issues.

Fortnightly Magazine - June 2006

interconnections. Those same technologies are being applied to develop new tools to help energy and utility control-room operators track and respond to transmission outages, generation emergencies, and other significant events.

PJM Interconnection, the organization responsible for overseeing the nation’s largest regional electricity market, is using an advanced logging system to increase the productivity of operators and back-office personnel by providing faster access to information and eliminating the need to manually input large amounts of data.

This “smart logging,” or SmartLog, application uses proven military technologies including intelligent agents to scan operational databases, recognize critical events and abnormal conditions to alert operators to potential problems. The SmartLog system automatically updates operator logs with critical data and events; the operator then needs only to add his actions and the result to the log record, thus reducing the amount of time required by the operator to record the event. Similar to its military counterparts, the SmartLog application ties into the existing set of operations tools used by PJM’s power-system operators.

The SmartLog application was designed specifically to improve the processes for operators in the control room, supervisors who manage the control room, and analysts who later need to assess and communicate the actions taken by operators. It is a prime example of how military technologies are being applied successfully to solve issues facing utilities.

Mission Rehearsal Meets Market-Rule Changes

Mission rehearsal and training is another key area where the military has made great strides in efficiency and effectiveness by applying new technologies. The challenge revolves around the dissemination and communication of large volumes of information—in this case, real data stored in command-and-control (C2) systems. To make mission rehearsal as realistic and relevant as possible, real C2 data is used to create training scenarios.

Using this real data creates real challenges. Effective mission rehearsal begins with the definition of the scenario, followed by the data harvesting that will initialize both the C2 and modeling and simulation (M&S) systems. The information must then be tailored for a specific training scenario that will be executed and evaluated in an after-action review.

Information-sharing is the first challenge. There are numerous C2 and M&S systems, each with their own data scheme. By defining common information protocols, the defense sector has improved the responsiveness of the systems that host mission rehearsals while allowing more of the real world C2 systems to participate within their operational settings. These are the types of technologies referred to by FERC and the Energy Department when they ask for tools to increase situational awareness and improve operator-training capabilities. Technologies exist that can capture and share real-time data among multiple organizations and agencies to increase joint situational awareness and store that data for use in more realistic and broader regional training exercises.

An information hierarchy that creates realistic battle training scenarios remains to be developed. To help solve this complicated issue, the military has developed and employed a set of complex rules engines that extract and organize C2 data for use in training scenarios based on a set of predisposed criteria. Those rules engines, which have helped