A U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory has shown how blockchain technology can be used to secure the grid in what it says is a first-of-its-kind demonstration of a new power system communications framework.
“This framework gives us a totally new capability to rapidly respond to anomalies,” Raymond Borges Hink, who led the research team at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, said in a statement. Borges Hink is a cyber security research scientist at the lab.
A blockchain is a distributed ledger more commonly associated with crypto currencies, but he said his team has shown it can be used to “more quickly identify an unauthorized system change, find its source and provide more trustworthy failure analysis. The goal is to limit the damage caused by a cyberattack or equipment failure.”
The blockchain-based communications framework was demonstrated at the Grid Research Integration and Deployment Center at Oak Ridge this year. According to an August study of the project it utilized measurement, communication and protection devices that electric utilities commonly employ.
In order to ensure grid components were properly functioning, the communications framework would verify that configuration data on devices had not been illegitimately modified from the last known correct settings by comparing it “with the last known correct baselines.”
“Our system helps determine in near real-time whether a fault was triggered by a cyberattack or induced by natural events,” Borges Hink said. “This is the first implementation of blockchain enabling this kind of data validation between a substation, a control center and metering infrastructure.”
While most of the energy discussion around blockchain technologies focuses on their energy use — a group of federal lawmakers is investigating the electricity consumption of bitcoin — some use cases focus on how distributed ledgers can benefit clean energy development and grid management. Decarbonization-focused non-profit RMI has been studying how distributed ledgers can be used in carbon markets.