Cybersecurity defense workshop highlights grid vulnerabilties

A high level technical workshop was organised by the Association of European Distribution System Operators (E.DSO), the European Network for Cyber Security (ENCS) and the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) to address the safety of the European electricity grid.

The aim of the workshop was to discuss how to maintain control over grid infrastructure now nation state online activities targeting power grids are no longer in doubt. Furthermore, the workshop focused on how best to overcome cybersecurity issues in light of new actors and technologies being connected to the grid at an ever-increasing rate.

Attendees included cybersecurity experts from the grid operator community, public organisations and industry and discussion centered on the main threats requiring mitigation, strategic opportunities and how to stay ahead of the developments.

The voice of the EU Commission directorate general for communication, networks, content and technology, Mr. Roberto Viola, asserted that “Grid infrastructure integration places coordination at the centre of energy security. Cybersecurity is a key priority for the new EU commission as we need to advance standards and regulatory tools”.

He was followed by Mr. Stefan Moser, from the Directorate General for Energy, who stated that “Energy needs digitalization to master decarbonization. Clean energy package foresees legal basis for network codes jointly developed by DSOs, TSOs and acer to develop common perspectives of what needs to be done”.

The grid operator community is expanding its successful approach of investing in expert pooling and community building around strategic themes. These include supply chain security, closing the skills gap and creating practical solutions fit for use in the wider community.

A demonstration by ElaadNL and ENCS on “how vulnerabilities in EV charging infrastructure can be exploited to disrupt electricity supply,” showcased the urgent need to address security responsibilities in a multi-stakeholder environment.

“There are a lot of discussions around the concept of “sandboxing” these days at EU level. The long-standing cooperation among DSOs, TSOs and ENCS is testament to the strength of this approach. Experimenting with, developing and deploying technology in a no-strings environment accelerates advancement in problem solving, software development and product engineering”, stated Roberto Zangrandi, secretary general with E.DSO, the voice of Europe’s leading DSOs. He also added: “What’s more, this approach yields crucial knowledge to better inform the activities of policy makers and regulators in the sector”.

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“While the European legislative framework for security is being implemented and expanded, it is now essential to focus on the right things”, said ENCS managing director, Anjos Nijk.

“Regulators have to rely on new expertise and go beyond what they have become comfortable with in the past decades. The push for standards from manufacturers should be converted into a pull for standards from operators. After all, it is operators who are the risk owners and possess the key to harmonisation of requirements and testing. Public funding (like the H2020 program) is too bureaucratic and should become results-oriented instead.”

According to Laurent Schmitt, ENTSO-E secretary general, “our TSO Community is actively working to best anticipate the coming new network code on cybersecurity, furthermore, TSOs and DSOs, governments and EU should cooperate not only to protect the energy sector in Europe from cyber threats, but also to actively control or anticipate them. For instance, it is necessary to identify gaps in international cyber standards, carry out cross-border and cross-organisational risk assessments, and elaborate a secure procurement policy”.

The event once again made it very clear that all stakeholders share the same objective and that only collaboration will allow Europe to stay ahead and surf the innovations with confidence and awareness.

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