Future State Architecture for an Electricity Utility

The electricity industry is extending its automation capabilities to third party premises to establish capabilities commonly referred to as ‘smart grids’. The electricity grid is vital infrastructure that must be protected from malicious attack. Assuring this capability, as points of network access are extended to third party premises, is a significant security challenge.

Business Aspect was engaged to develop a future state ICT architecture that would cover the communications, security and configuration management aspects of the smart grid over a 10 year time horizon.

The project developed ‘as is’ documentation for sample power grid devices that included development of a ‘standard’ schematic representation. No standard schematic representation had existed previously. A characteristics matrix was defined to assist with the identification of current and future device requirements. The matrix covered dimensions such as communication, security and management.

Based on the inventory of current and future characteristics, together with a number of solution patterns designed to address identified challenges, a future state architecture was developed. Analysis of the gaps between the current and future states formed the basis of the transition plan. This provided a view of the urgency and importance of the change, as well as the key steps to be undertaken.

The project achieved its stated intent, which was to provide an end-to-end process for establishing the future architecture. The project succeeded in identifying a range of issues to be addressed and provided proposed solutions. It developed an approach that is expected to be suitable for developing the architecture and supporting the implementation requirements as technology, business and regulatory demands emerge.