Managing energy demand spikes

Managing energy demand spikes with seasonal forecasts of heatwaves and cold spells

The impact of heavy droughts, heatwaves and cold spells on energy demand and supplies would be lessened with seasonal climate forecasts that allow energy companies to better predict spikes in usage ahead of time, researchers say.

Researchers already have the ability to predict what changes in climate can be expected in two to three weeks’ time, or even in several months’ time. Unlike weather forecasts, these climate forecasts aim to predict how conditions may change compared to what is normal for that time of year.

Across the sea:

It’s Time to Tie the U.S. Electric Grid Together, Says NREL Study
The U.S. electrical grid is really made up of three largely separate grids with puny transmission connections at the seams.
The need to better distribute renewable energy resources across the country isn’t merely a research question.


  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Algorithms Help Power Grids Survive GPS Spoofs

    Power grids increasingly rely on GPS to stay in sync, which makes them potentially vulnerable to attacks that broadcast false GPS signals. Now researchers have developed algorithms they say could help defend against such assaults, even if a third of a power grid’s GPS signals were disrupted.

    In order to deal with potentially damaging fluctuations, a power grid operator needs to know what the voltages and currents are at specific points in time, and at widely dispersed points along the grid.

  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Botnet of Smart Heaters, ACs Can Cause Power Disruptions: Researchers

    A research paper published this week at the 27th USENIX Security Symposium describes a new type of attack that could cause energy grid disruptions. The method involves a botnet powered by tens of thousands of compromised high-wattage IoT devices such as heaters and air conditioners.

    Wi-Fi enabled air conditioners, ovens, water heaters and space heaters that can be controlled remotely over the Internet are increasingly popular. The power usage of these devices ranges between 1,000 and 5,000 watts.

    Researchers from the Department of Electrical Engineering at Princeton University claim that these types of high-wattage IoT devices can be exploited in what they call “Manipulation of demand via IoT” (MadIoT) attacks to cause local power outages and even large-scale blackouts.

    In a MadIoT attack, a threat actor takes control of smart high-wattage devices in order to manipulate (i.e. increase or decrease) power consumption.

    The experts tested their theory using state-of-the-art simulators of real-world power grid models.

    One attack scenario involves frequency instability.

    Using a simulator based on the power grid model of the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC), which is responsible for compliance monitoring and enforcement in the Western part of the United States and Canada, researchers calculated that a 30 percent increase in power demand would lead to all generators tripping.

    In order to launch such an attack, experts determined that an attacker would need a botnet of 90,000 air conditioners and 18,000 electric water heaters within the targeted geographical area.

    A botnet of roughly 100,000 IoT systems may not seem like an impossible task considering that the Mirai botnet, at its peak, infected over 600,000 devices. However, those devices were distributed across more than 160 countries and they included low-wattage devices such as cameras. In the case of a MadIoT botnet, the bots would need to be concentrated in the region of the targeted power grid and they would need to be high-wattage devices for the attack to have an impact.

  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Just say no: Wi-Fi-enabled appliance botnet could bring power grid to its knees

    Princeton researchers find army of high-wattage IoT devices could cripple electric grid.

  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Smart Grids Overcome Renewable Energy Variability and Uncertainty

    Renewable Energy (RE, which includes hydro, biomass, and geothermal as well as the more familiar photovoltaic (PV) and wind) faces it critics. At one end of the spectrum are those that argue global warming is a conspiracy designed to play into the hands of politicians and major financial institutions so there’s little reason not to continue burning fossil fuels in our power stations. Others with a less extreme viewpoint concede the Earth is warming and carbon emissions probably don’t help but insist nuclear power (fission today and fusion tomorrow) will save us. Still others claim that solar panels and wind turbines produce more carbon during their manufacture and maintenance than they save in producing their electricity and suggest instead storing the carbon that conventional power stations emit so we can carry on using them.

    However, most developed nations have policies that mandate an increased proportion of RE.

    The downsides of RE are variability (for example, change of generation output due to fluctuations of wind or sun) and uncertainty (the inability to predict the timing and magnitude of changes in generation output). As such, there is no guarantee that RE resources will be available when demand peaks arise. For example, while a wind farm might reliably produce power for 40 percent of the time, just when that power will be produced is very difficult to predict.

    Uncertainty and variability of supply is a nightmare for utility managers because they undermine reliability—a lack of which incurs harsh financial penalties from regulators. The electricity industry uses two indices to measure reliability:

    The System Average Interruption Duration Index (SAIDI) reflects the average number of minutes per year that customers are without electricity.
    System Average Interruption Frequency Index (SAIFI) reflects the average number of actual outages customers experience per year.

    Today, this emphasis on reliability causes utilities to “hedge their bets” by backing up RE with conventional generation. For example, a recent example of wind plant experience in the U.S. showed that conventional reserves have been increased up to 9 percent to accommodate wind penetration of 15 percent.

    Tomorrow, smart grids—modernized networks that enable bidirectional flows of energy and use two-way communication and control capabilities, and “distributed generation”—will address the variability and uncertainty of RE without utilities having to add to their conventional power stations.

    Building smart grids takes time, but the good news is that this can be done without interrupting current RE initiatives. A study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the U.S. found that integration of 35 percent of wind and solar energy into the electric power system—saving carbon emissions approximately equivalent of taking 22 to 36 million cars off the road—will not require extensive new infrastructure if changes are made to operational practices. Key to making this happen is increasing the geographic area over which the wind and solar resources are drawn to substantially reduce variability. But once RE penetration approaches 50 percent smart grids will be needed to underpin future reliability.

    Such networks will knit together hundreds of small generators such as PV panels on domestic roofs, windfarms and tidal generation with stored energy schemes such as water pumped uphill when electricity is plentiful and released to power turbines when it’s not. This distributed generation will be sited closer to population centers than today’s giant power stations, shortening transmission and distribution feeders (the poles and wires) and reducing both their cost and the power losses associated with them.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *