Cyber security: it’s time to talk TSOs

Over the past few years, cyber security has quite rightly climbed the European energy sector agenda. European Union Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker even made cyber security a key focus of his annual state of the union speech, hinting at a new certification scheme that encompasses, among other things, smart meters.

From reading the headlines it seems a lot of this new focus has fallen on the distribution system operators (DSOs), with less attention paid to the transmission system operators (TSOs).

This is understandable for a couple or reasons. On the one hand, TSOs have historically been quite proactive with security anyway. On the other, many of the exciting new technologies that introduce new attack vectors to the system – smart meters, electric vehicle (EV) charging etc – operate mainly at the DSO level.

However, we can’t forget about the TSOs. They run some of the most critical of critical infrastructure, transmitting power across distances and borders and keeping grids balanced. If they were compromised by a cyber attack, a lot of people would find themselves in the dark.

And we can’t forget that the whole energy system is finely tuned and interconnected. TSOs and DSOs may be independent entities, but they are interdependent partners. If a DSO is compromised, it makes the TSO’s job of balancing the grid very difficult indeed. If a TSO goes down, the DSO will find itself without the power it needs. Bottom line: they share responsibility for keeping Europe’s grids and citizens safe and secure.

What’s more, despite the focus on technologies like smart meters, TSOs are facing increased cyber threats. The widespread integration of large scale renewable generation projects into grids, plus increased automation and connectivity in balancing technologies, introduce new attack vectors all around Europe.

The only sensible response to shared cyber security threats and challenges is shared expertise, experience and efforts. That’s why at ENCS we have increased our focus at the transmission level so that we can help keep the grid secure at every level. As a result, we have recently signed a memorandum of understanding with ENTSO-E (The European Network of Transmission System Operators) and welcomed Dutch/German TSO TenneT as a member.

We look forward to deep and broad collaboration with all of our members and partners across Europe, be they DSOs, TSOs or any other operator in our shared critical energy infrastructure.

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