Questions and answers on consumer privacy and threats to the grid – both physical and cyber.
Massoud Amin is Chairman of the IEEE Smart Grid, an ASME fellow, and a member of two utility industry reliability groups – the Texas Reliability Entity (as board chairman) and the Midwest Reliability Organization (as a board member). At the University of Minnesota he serves as professor of electrical and computer engineering, and as director of the school’s Technological Leadership Institute (TLI). Dr. Amin has researched and written on self-healing grid concepts and solutions for two decades. Links to his work are available on the TLE’s website at http://massoud-amin.umn.edu/publications.html.
Electricity needs are changing and growing fast. Tweeting, and the myriad devices and infrastructures needed to operate the underpinning communication network, data centers, and storage alone adds thousands of megawatt-hours (MWh) of demand across the globe that did not exist just five years ago. Factor in Internet TV, video streaming, online gaming, and the digitization of medical records, and the world's electricity supply will need to triple by 2050 to keep up.
And this basic need for more electric supply will run head on into a host of obstacles.
Getting to adequate levels infrastructure is problematic, notably environmental, policy and financial concerns. To get there, we need to assure we do not increase social, economic, physical and political risks. That invokes questions regarding consumer privacy, cyber security, physical attack, international terrorism, and the role of government.
Naysayers worry that smart grid initiatives, coupled with increased levels of penetration of distributed and intermittent renewable generation resources, contain negative ramifications for some electrical distribution systems, putting stress on devices traditionally used to handle voltage variability. Some have voiced concerns even of potential health impacts from exposure to radio-frequency signals emitted from wireless smart meters.
In fashioning a viable policy on smart grid, no doubt we must address questions such as these: