The Move Beyond Building Automation Systems to a More Secure Energy Infrastructure


Programmable Logic Controllers (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

The need to upgrade energy infrastructure around the world is spurring BAS and SCADA deployments – but Chief Engineers should be wary! Industry experts, the Gartner Group, Frost and Sullivan and Forrester, are warning of increased cyber-security threats and crippling system malfunctions that too often piggyback upon retrofits. Analyst market research collected from executives such as heads of operations, directors of facilities, and VPs of energy management, indicate a trend toward adopting industry-specific turnkey energy management system that comprises several subsystems. PwC energy/power experts report that a top priority with these heads of operations and facilities is in achieving a truly secure automation and centralization of monitoring that will manage their organization’s disparate, but critical, energy assets.

What they are finding is that energy and power distribution infrastructures have elaborate and sophisticated network layers and both BAS and SCADA do not possess a robust security framework that can deal with possible intrusions and malfunctions that will ensure process safety and integrity. PwC reports that this is primarily due to a combination of an organization’s reluctance to invest in cyber-security, coupled with the usage of legacy systems, which bring a whole host of issues like slow reaction speeds, incompatibility and silos of isolation. Analysts have come to agree that to address such challenges, and without putting an energy infrastructure at risk, the best investment is in distributed energy asset management. Such systems have been developed from the ground up to specifically leverage the wide range of energy equipment an organization has already invested in – but does so in a safe, secure and compliant way. For instance, we developed an energy asset management system that integrates and leverages a campus of buildings’ existing energy meters no matter which brand, such as Square D, Powerlogic, GE, Itron, Ester and Siemens; Automatic Transfer Switchboards (ATS) from ASCO, Zenith, Russelectric; and generators from Caterpillar, Cummins, Kohler, Hitachi, etc. This way an organization’s existing investment can be leveraged, since BAS packages are not typically vendor-agnostic and have to be configured manually from scratch. Additionally the integration of the numerous numbers of energy equipment is not at all seamless, nor secure.