Illinois researchers partner with ABB on new DOE-funded energy delivery systems research


The University of Illinois is teaming with ABB on two newly awarded projects funded by the Department of Energy (DOE) Cybersecurity for Energy Delivery Systems (CEDS) program. These are the latest from an ongoing research collaboration between Illinois and ABB, a global manufacturer of equipment for the electrical sector, providing equipment that scales from substation relays to high-voltage transformers. The projects demonstrate and extend the leadership of UI in the field of research that advances the cyber resiliency of
Al Valdes
Al Valdes
energy systems.

One project addresses the security of flexible alternating current transmission systems (FACTS). FACTS enable existing and new transmission systems to realize advantages in power and control, and are a promising strategy for future electric transmission systems. The project will develop defense-in-depth strategies against insider and outsider attacks against FACTS, leveraging unique signatures of FACTS devices as a complement to conventional cybersecurity measures, and culminating in a realistic field test. Ensuring cybersecurity of FACTS is essential to adoption of the technology and realizing its potential benefits. The Illinois budget for this project is $615,000 over three years.

The second project addresses secure integration of distributed energy resources (DER) into area electric power systems (AEPS). The main objective of the project is to fill the identified cybersecurity gap and explore security enhancements, implemented in flexible configurations of peer and hierarchical AEPS-DER environments. DER interact with AEPS supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems in increasingly complex exchanges of measurements and control actions.

The project will develop a secure architecture, identifying means to secure points of physical and logical connections. The project will also develop approaches to maintain stability (voltage and frequency control) in a cyber-adversarial environment. The Illinois share of this award is just over $1 million over three years.

In both projects, researchers will leverage the physics to reinforce security, in the form of comprehending measurements from regional transmission systems (which may span multiple states) in the FACTS project, or AEPS SCADA measurements in the DER project, and assessing consistency of these with expected behavior according to physical laws and high-fidelity models. The challenge is to perform this “big data” analysis fast enough to react to or head off a potential cyberattack.

Alfonso Valdes, principal research scientist in the Information Trust Institute, will be the Illinois PI on both efforts. Mr. Valdes is currently Illinois PI on two projects in collaboration with ABB. Faculty on the project team include Prof. Pete Sauer and Prof. Subhomesh Bose of ITI and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Richard Macwan and Hao Jan (Max) Liu provided significant input into the successful proposal efforts.

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