Where Communication meet Electrical Systems

The Energetic and electric sector is changing its paradigm, making necessary to adapt the industrial sector to such new model. This change is led by the irruption of the renewable energies, Energy storage, the integration of technologies of information and communication (TIC) and internet, which has provoked the evolution of the classic distribution grid to the Smart Grid, and still continue evolving to the future DigitalGrid.

Additionally, several classic static loads have become controllable and new active agents has arisen with the aim of participating on the grid management, as electric vehicles or energy storage systems. These new technologies have provided new capacities (enhanced controllability and observability of the grid, better management, increased flexibility, etc).

But, not all that glitters is gold, and this disruption also brought new challenges unknown in the electrical systems but well known in Computer Science as cybersecurity. The electrical system always made use of communication systems but they were under private and isolated (normally) networks, which could be only approached by connecting directly to it. The use of internet to share information creates the bridge to this. Thus, the electrical system must manage two different worlds (at different layers) as the physical and the soft.

In this regard, how to increase system resiliency is of extreme relevance at both levels. Here the self-healing concept has a great interest. One hot topic for applying at communication systems, is the so-called Software-Defined-Networks. In short, they are virtual networks governed by a central server which defines the information-sharing links among nodes (an application of cloud computing). This is of relevance to simplify faults isolation (for example, cyberattacks or node loss), maximizing resiliency. Similar approach, may be applied to electrical networks (requiring of special equipment for interacting) based on edge computing giving more relevance to the automation and monitoring systems (i.e. RTU, PMUs, etc).

Security of the electrical system (as critical infrastructure) is a must, and both interdisciplinary and intersectorial research must provide the answers.
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