On June 17, 2016, the Consumer Liaison Group (CLG) met in Westborough, Massachusetts to discuss electricity security for consumers and how advancements in technology are changing the way utilities detect and protect against cybersecurity threats.
Congressman James McGovern, representing Massachusetts’ 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, delivered the keynote address. McGovern focused his remarks on the issue of climate change and what the nation must do to combat it. He supported the consideration of all options and resource types for meeting New England’s energy needs, but warned against expanding the region’s natural gas pipeline capacity. Investing billions of dollars on natural gas infrastructure, he said, would lock the region into an energy source it may not prefer in 20 years.
Bob Espindola, Energy Systems Program Manager for Acushnet Company, moderated a panel of energy industry representatives to discuss the challenges associated with deploying advanced technologies while securing infrastructure and protecting consumers. The panel included the following:
- Christine Hallquist, Chief Executive Officer of Vermont Electric Cooperative, discussed the deployment of smart-grid technologies on the Vermont Electric Cooperative (VEC) system and the identification of cybersecurity as a top priority early in the process. VEC installed two-way meters in 2005 and introduced software to give consumers the ability to monitor their own electricity usage in 2009. Hallquist said that, from the beginning, cybersecurity was identified as a key component of effectively deploying these technologies. Hallquist also views robust cybersecurity as a means of growing distributed renewable energy resources on the VEC system.
- Anjan Bagchee, Director of Information Technology for EnerNOC, discussed the scale and magnitude of the challenges associated with cybersecurity when considering the number of smart devices being used today. He said that one of the pillars of security is protecting end points. Bagchee also discussed the lack of baselines or minimum standards that must be met, and the lack of regulatory oversight of cybersecurity for consumer devices.
- Mukund Ravipaty, Director of Enterprise Security Architecture for National Grid, discussed the importance of utilities evolving as technologies change while also securing infrastructure and protecting consumers. Ravipaty noted that utilities have a responsibility to ensure consumers have secure and reliable electricity service, but consumers are responsible for doing their due diligence when making use of advanced technologies.
Anne George, Vice President of External Affairs and Corporation Communications for ISO New England, concluded with information on the work ISO New England is doing to protect against cybersecurity threats. George explained that the ISO is already subject to mandatory North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) standards that address both physical and cyber security. The ISO also participates in bi-annual grid security exercises organized by NERC to test the readiness of the electricity subsector to respond to physical and cybersecurity threats. In addition, at the end of 2015, the ISO launched the 24/7 Security Operations Center to provide round-the-clock cybersecurity monitoring of the ISO New England network.
Following her remarks on cybersecurity, George discussed the 2015 Annual Markets Report (AMR) released by the ISO’s Internal Market Monitor (IMM) on May 25, 2016. The AMR assesses the state of competition in the wholesale electricity markets administered by ISO New England during the most recent operating year. According to the IMM, the region’s energy, capacity, and ancillary services markets performed well in 2015, with prices that reflected the cost of fuel in New England. A copy of George’s presentation is available here.
The next CLG meeting will be held in Rhode Island on September 15, 2016. For more information, visit the CLG webpage.