Safe Components and Networks of Smart Grids

The renewable energy market in Asia Pacific is fast-growing as government and policy makers begin to understand the importance of sustainable energy. According to the Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness 2016 report, Asia Pacific secured almost US$180 million in clean energy investments last year, more than half of the global total. 

Across the region, breakneck developments have accentuated the landscape. India, for one, has plans to install 175 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity by 2022. Over in Southeast Asia, Indonesia plans to scale up renewable energy to a quarter of its energy mix by 2025. Singapore’s Energy Market Authority also set up the Energy Storage Programme to support the development of storage and related technologies, key to integrate renewable energy into the electricity grid. 

To ensure that energy is adequately provided for the region’s population of 615 million, it is hence essential to ensure that communication networks in the energy sector are well protected as compromises in security will result in major disruptions across the region. There are two main challenges that increasingly affect energy grids: the number of additional grid elements and the use of unsecured IP protocols. 

Challenges in energy grids  

Today’s energy market is primarily dominated by PDH/SDH networks which are self-contained systems that offer few possibilities to manipulate. Most operators are still using these well-tried network services to control and monitor the technical processes of energy grids. Energy produced from gas, coal and oil is distributed over lines that end up in big substations and small supply stations. The use of renewable energy however brings along a decentralization of supply, such as from wind and solar energy. This means that additional grid elements have to be connected to the network, which in most cases is not done via PDH/SDH but via Ethernet/IP. Communication systems that support the co-existence of native TDM and packet-based data transmission in one network element can help the operators of mission-critical networks in expanding their network efficiently. 

Another driver for energy operators to expand their networks and to integrate packet-based Ethernet and IP-based systems is to provide access to the Internet and Intranet, for example, to enable remote controlling and new customer services. In this context, it makes perfect sense to migrate the entire communication networks to IP technology. However, this increases the vulnerabilities of mission-critical networks, requiring a more comprehensive protection.

Security solutions in the future

In order to ensure that communication networks remain safe, energy operators should implement comprehensive security solutions to ensure the highest level of security. The essential components of highly secured mission-critical systems include central monitoring, port security, authentication, authorization as well as encrypted data transmission between the individual components. A bundle of measures are required in guaranteeing high level of security in the mission-critical systems – implemented in an information security management system (ISMS).

Data in packet-based transmission networks should only be transmitted in an encrypted form. It is especially important for operators of energy grids that the encryption has no impact on the network performance. Near zero delay variation and latency times must ensure one of the most important demands on mission-critical systems is met: the data availability.  


Dieter Klein, Managing Director for Asia at KEYMILE