ERCOT utilities approach CIP compliance from varying perspectives
Scott M. Gawlicki
As proposed by the North American Electric Reliability Corp., the new critical infrastructure protection (CIP) standards charge utilities with identifying their own critical assets and related cyber systems. This approach allows great flexibility for utilities to apply the CIP standards to their particular situations. This will help ensure that their efforts focus on securing critical assets, rather than on complying with an overly prescriptive set of mandates that might or might not yield a secure grid.
Test gets major media hype, but SCADA vulnerabilities remain
Lori A. Burkhart
A simulated attack, named the Aurora Generator Test, took place in March 2007 by researchers investigating supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system vulnerabilities at utility companies. The experiment involved hackers invading the plant’s control system to change the operating cycle of the generator.
Intelligent power grids present vexing cyber security problems
Michael T. Burr
In a world where streetlights can be used as a weapon, controlling local utility networks becomes more than just a matter of public convenience and necessity. It becomes a matter of public safety and even national security. And in that world, the idea of an inter-networked, automated distribution grid poses troubling questions about cybersecurity vulnerabilities.
California’s load-management experience argues for formal DR standards
Jackalyne Pfannenstiel and Ahmad Faruqui
California hopes to reap $3 billion in benefits from demand response over the next 20 years. Maximizing the potential may require the California Energy Commission to exert its statutory authority. CEC’s chair co-authors.
Conservation investments benefit participants and non-participants alike
Charles J. Cicchetti, Ph.D.
For-profit energy efficiency programs are coming. Duke Energy proposes to align the interests of shareholders and retail customers within an expanded least-cost approach. Convincing regulators will require taking a holistic view of the costs and benefits.
Grid reliability depends on ‘reasonable business judgment’
Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief
The word “security” no longer means what it used to mean. Now, “security” means gates, guards and guns. It means protecting critical assets with a multi-layered cyber and physical perimeter. It means exercising vigilance and caution, and accepting inconvenience as a matter of routine.
Before the hearings started, I felt the number of critical cyber assets for a medium size utility would be on the order of several thousand, not 20 as some major utilities are identifying under the CIP standards. This should be a red flag for the industry.
TXU’s buyout structure creates a potential model for utility M&A and refinancing deals
Terry A. Pratt
2007 was a big year for TXU Corp., as it went private in the largest leveraged buyout in history. To sweeten the deal for environmentalists and regulators, TXU made structural and financial concessions. Now TXU’s ring-fencing structure might become a template for future utility M&A and refinancing deals.
NERC’s new cyber security rules may minimize cost of compliance, but they leave utilities guessing on how to identify risks.
Bruce W. Radford
Liam Baker, vice president for regulatory affairs at US Power Generating, questions whether his company’s power plants and control systems in New York and Massachusetts must comply with the electric industry’s new mandatory standards for cyber security. Baker voiced his doubts in written comments he filed in October with FERC.
Financial-risk coverage is falling short in utility returns
Donald Murry, Ph.D. Zhen Zhu., Ph.D. and Michael Knapp, Ph. D.
When setting the allowed returns on common equity of jurisdictional utilities, state regulatory authorities apply the virtually universal standard that the allowed returns should be similar to returns on common equity investments in companies of equivalent risk. Such returns generally are accepted as fair if they are no higher than necessary and still sufficient to attract investment. Despite the universality of this regulatory standard, our investigation of recent allowed returns by state commissions shows that a key risk—financial risk—as measured by accepted, measurable metrics, has not been a factor affecting the level of allowed returns in the United States in recent years.
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