Tdworld 20344 Power Grid Kagenmi 2 0

Physical Asset Management of Smart Grid and Related Infrastructure

Oct. 29, 2019
Although a smarter grid is gradually being implemented, there are major concerns with the cybersecurity risks that a smart grid poses

The vulnerability of our nation’s aging grid infrastructure was felt significantly during the 2003 Northeastern power outage, which was caused by poor tree maintenance, defective software and weather and resulted in more than 50 million people without power for 24 hours or more. More recently, Pacific Gas and Electric has been in the spotlight because of its role following deadly Northern California fires in 2018. One might argue that additional data from smart grid sensors could have possibly prevented both of these power failures. However, such precautions could also open doors to new vulnerabilities via cyberattacks, resulting in similar failure.

The future of the modern grid is threatened by many circumstances, and the smart grid is the most prominently discussed solution. Although a smarter grid is gradually being implemented, there are major concerns with the cybersecurity risks that a smart grid poses. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and other government agencies believe that a successful cyber-attack on the grid, which has yet to occur in the U.S., is imminent.  As a result of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), NIST developed a framework for cybersecurity of the smart grid to provide guidance to utilities and standards organizations regarding best practices and guiding principles.

Power Generation Considerations

As the issue of climate change continues to gain ground, solar and wind power are key players in the energy generation mix. These require inverters and other controls that potentially impact the grid’s power quality. This year, wind generation surpassed hydropower, with energy storage technologies being leveraged to provide stabilization.

In 2013, the CREW database from Sandia National Labs identified that scheduled, unscheduled, and forced outage reduces the availability of wind generators by 3 percent, providing the potential availability of at least 97 percent with an additional 4 percent reduction from a lack of wind.  As technology improves, so does the impact of wind availability, but unscheduled maintenance due to reliability issues remains unusually high. Despite the statistics, wind generation operations and maintenance costs still remain the lowest among all sources, per the US Energy Information Administration.

There are challenges with the reliable delivery of power for the modern grid. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE) Standard 1547 series is currently in development and covers interoperability of modern electrical systems and their potential impact on the grid.  This series has provides the requirements for performance, operation, testing, safety and maintenance of interconnections. With the pace of expansion of alternative energy expected to come, grid stabilization technology must continue to advance. 

Transmission and Distribution

The life-cycle of the assets becomes more complex as we begin to include the variety of power generation, end users, and the communications necessary to manage the system. In an aging grid infrastructure intertwined with the application of connected technologies, power transformers are nearing end-of-life, transmission lines and towers require increasing attention, and substations are seeing a spike in failed components. Some of these components have a relatively short replacement cycle, while power transformers require a year or more to replace or upgrade.

Failed substation equipment in 2013 (re: 2013 NERC State of Reliability) included:

  • Switch: 6 percent
  • Power Transformers: 15 percent
  • Circuit Breakers: 29 percent
  • Lightning and Surge Arrestors: 16 percent
  • Other : 34 percent

The ability to perform condition-based detection of failures as well as increasing the resistance to failure by identifying potential faults in unique systems through tools such as Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) and the investigation and correction of faults using Root Cause Failure Analysis (RCFA) tools will improve reliability and safety. 

Smart Grid and Resiliency

The industrial sector has slowly moved towards real-time analytics, and technologies like wind generation have been dealing with big data over the past decade.  As homes and businesses become more connected through Internet of Things (IoT), data-derived monitoring has allowed tasks to be performed automatically.  Access to intranets and the internet allow for communication across stakeholders, but also can provide cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

The goal for smart grid systems is to allow for rapid responses and control of energy sources in order to improve the cost and efficiency of power delivery. The ability to improve power delivery and independency of the grid, as well as bring small generation such as co-generation and emergency power generators, online increases the resiliency of the system.

The Bridge

A key issue with smart grid reliability is that few lessons learned within industry and military make it into the utility and distribution industry.  Organizations such as the Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (SMRP) provide a bridge to this gap. The members of SMRP are stakeholders in smart grid and lessons learned between the T&D, power generation and users in relation to electrical reliability and resiliency are invaluable. SMRP works with its partners in the Global Forum on Maintenance and Asset Management ( in training, certification and information related to asset management.

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