Yesterday, US-based ComEd announced a partnership with Xage Security to demonstrate distributed ledger technology (DLT) at work for electric systems. The goal is to use blockchain for securing the grid as it integrates several distributed energy resources (DERs). ComEd will conduct the blockchain project at its Grid of the Future Lab.
Distributed energy resources
DERs employ a producer and consumer (prosumer) approach. This means there are multiple stakeholders, and therefore a need for immutable, trustworthy data. The data comes from sensors which record electricity production and trade. Smart contracts are then used for executing trade agreements. While blockchain contributes in the above scenarios, it is especially beneficial for keeping track of trades on energy marketplaces.
Xage will apply its blockchain security solution to ComEd’s growing energy grid. The electricity provider is one of the US’s largest and is a unit of Exelon, which boasts the nation’s highest number of energy customers.
“ComEd is investigating how blockchain technology can provide operational and security benefits while enabling the customers and communities we serve to realize their sustainability and resilience goals,” explained Terry Donnelly, president and COO of the firm.
“Advanced control and communications frameworks enabled through blockchain can help to further build the foundation for the decarbonized, digitalized and decentralized grid while making it more resilient from a cybersecurity perspective,” said Dr. Amin Khodaei, chairman of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Denver, and a ComEd partner on this demonstration project.
Security and IoT
Electricity grids across the world are adapting to welcome digital transformation. But the integration of Internet of Things (IoT) devices on the grid has introduced security concerns such as cyberattacks. It also increases the chances of customer data leaks.
In December 2017, Xage launched Fabric which provides tamper-proofing for passwords, enrollment, and policies. The solution is to store details of users or passwords as an illegible hash on an internal blockchain. If someone tries to tamper with one remote location, the details can be checked across multiple servers or sites to see if there’s an inconsistency.
“Grid modernization needs to be implemented with sophisticated and comprehensive security solutions from the start,” said Duncan Greatwood, CEO of Xage Security.
He added: “Cyberattacks are becoming more advanced and focused, bypassing network-level protection to target specific industrial control systems. Smart grid cybersecurity must protect every digital interaction.”
Last year, Xage raised $12 million in a Series A funding round led by March Capital Partners, which includes GE Ventures, City Light Capital, and NexStar Partners.
In June, the Department of Energy (DOE) awarded Xage with a research and development grant for securing the US power grid. Last month, the DOE’s Office of Science awarded $1.05 million to startup IoT company BEM Controls for blockchain-based electricity trading. ComEd is also contributing to this project.