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This is the second in a series of profiles and updates from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) first Electricity Industry Technology and Practices Innovation Challenge (EITPIC).

EITPIC was designed to tap into American ingenuity for ideas on how to make the nation’s electric grid stronger and more resilient. Through the challenge, DOE sought ideas from industry, academia, and other innovators for technologies and solutions to address existing or emerging vulnerabilities and threats to the electric sector or mitigate interdependencies between the electricity sector and other sectors.

Southern California Edison received $100,000 for its proposal to virtualize components of electric grid substations and operate them using a human machine interface. Substations use traditional protection relays and automation devices (P&A) to protect the power system from abnormal system faults and restore power to the grid. Yet current P&A systems face numerous challenges in an era of emerging cybersecurity threats.

"Cybersecurity awareness and technology is now a mandatory part of life in today's landscape. Comprehensive cybersecurity methods and processes beyond compliance are required," said the Southern California Edison team. "The electric sector is faced with the challenge of moving toward implementing technologies and processes that minimize cybersecurity risk while enabling greater operation flexibility and resiliency."

The team's proposal simulates physical hardware devices in a software environment to simplify P&A systems. If successful, the project will provide numerous benefits including reduced costs (hardware, installation, engineering, and maintenance) as well as enhanced cybersecurity through server redundancy and automated self-monitoring and alerting.

The team shared that the EITPIC award has provided visibility to the virtualization concept, and that the vendor community is interested in collaborating to validate the effects of the technology. The award has also accelerated the launch of demonstration project related to the concept. Next, the team plans to demonstrate the feasibility of the technology at its Grid Technology Learning Center in Westminster, CA.

Learn more about Southern California Edison’s proposal and all of the 2019 EITPIC winners here.