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Role of Smart Grids in building smart cities May 17, 2017 Read More
Smart meter security - how Denmark is upping the ante Apr 28, 2017 Read More
Networked Energy Services Response to Static Energy Meter Accuracy Study Mar 29, 2017 Read More
OSGP Alliance welcomes TAURON Distribution SA as new member Nov 15, 2016 Read More

By: Michel Madi, CEO – Middle East, Africa & India, Networked Energy Services Corporation

According to a study by the WHO, nearly 54 per cent of the global population resided in cities in 2015, at an increase of 30 per cent since 1950 [1]. The urban residents are forecasted to rise to 60 per cent of the world population by 2030, adding 2.5 billion more people to urban areas by 2050 [2]. With such rapid growth, future cities need to become smart to make judicious use of non-renewable resources and existing infrastructure and mitigate the impact of climate change and global warming.

What is a smart city? It is an intelligent metropolitan which employs innovative technologies to enhance the performance of vital local services, including energy, water, transportation, healthcare, waste management, and public safety. The use of various channels of communication and information technology (IT) allows smart cities to effectively address many challenges such as a rapidly expanding population, environmental sustainability, and economic viability to offer a safe, secured and clean environment to its residents.

While there are several features of a smart city, the single most important aspect is its energy infrastructure, which impacts all other critical functions of the city and a Smart Grid is the solution for a sustainable, resilient and affordable energy infrastructure. But what is a Smart Grid? It is a dynamic, interactive, and real-time infrastructure concept that modernizes power systems through automation, remote monitoring, and control. It also informs consumers about the usage and cost to enable them to make informed decisions.

Research and Markets’ ‘Emerging Markets Smart Grid: Outlook 2017 [3] report states that most Smart Grid investments have been concentrated in developed nations. Countries in North America, Western Europe, and East Asia represent over 75 per cent of the installed base of smart meters and other pioneering smart grid initiatives. For instance, the USA passed the bill for Smart Grids as early as in 2007 and earmarked funds to develop its smart grid infrastructure.

Since then, the US Government has launched several initiatives, including the Smart Grid Investment Grant (SGIS) for 2009-2014 to modernize the country’s electrical infrastructure. The USD 8 billion joint investment program, consisting of 99 cost-shared projects and involving more than 200 electric utility providers and participating organizations, deployed more than 15 million smart meters, 1,200 phasor measurement units, 19,000 units of distribution technology, and an assortment of customer systems [4]. Likewise, nearly 30 Smart Grid Projects with a total investment of EUR 300 million were started in Europe [5].  

Now many developing countries are exploring the multiple benefits of Smart Grids. Almost 50 countries forecasted to invest USD 268 billion in building Smart Grid infrastructure in the next 10 years [6]. Among them is the MENA region that is rapidly adopting renewable energy initiatives to manage its robust energy demands. The deployment of Smart Grids in the GCC can help the region save up to USD 10 billion in infrastructural investment by 2020 [7].

The UAE leads the region with its path-breaking initiatives to build smart cities. It launched the Energy Plan 2050 to increase the contribution of clean energy and decrease dependence on natural gas to generate power in line with UAE Vision 2021 [8]. It also pushed the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy during the inauguration of the second phase of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in 2015, which involves AED 100 billion in Green Fund investments and AED 50 billion for the park [9].

Smart Grids are modern power network that are the future of the energy sector as they have the tremendous potential to improve the quality of power and make energy sources reliable through demand response and comprehensive monitoring capabilities. Through the intelligent use of digital technologies and innovative application, they can contribute in the development of zero-energy buildings and green communities. Smart Grids also encourage consumers to rationalize their consumption by bringing them closer to energy sources and providing them greater control over their usage. However, initial installation cost pose a significant challenge, which can be addressed by formulating policies and offering incentives by governments to encourage investment in transforming legacy power networks to Smart Grids.


Danish utility SEAS-NVE collaborated with Networked Energy Services to implement Patagonia Smart Meter Security Enhancements

Mention ‘security’ today and many people immediately think of hacks or viruses and the need for cybersecurity.
Likewise, many assume that a new IT-based system comes with adequate security built in.
But these assumptions are both quite wrong when it comes to smart meters, says Emil Gurevitch, Security Software Engineer at Networked Energy Services (NES), a provider of smart grid and security solutions globally.
“We often see people equating a smart meter system to a traditional IT system but their characteristics are very different. That needs to be understood or the risk analysis won’t be accurate.”

Smart Meter Security Landscape

There are three sets of threats that need to be addressed for a smart metering system, Gurevitch points out. There are the ‘old school’ threats of fraud, theft and safety, which have long been a top concern for utilities.
There is a newer and growing group of regulatory threats around non-compliance, such as the General Data Protection Regulation in Europe. And then there are all the threats associated with IT, such as cyberattacks that can prevent a utility from delivering its services.
“Some of these threats are similar to those of an IT system, but their priorities differ,” comments Gurevitch. “And they are not static and continue to evolve and so the security solutions must likewise continue to evolve.”

SEAS-NVE Investigates Security  

Back in 2014, when utility IT breaches were starting to make headlines, Denmark’s largest cooperative utility SEAS-NVE was encouraged to look more closely into its own security arrangements.
“At the time our smart meters were installed, security wasn’t a priority issue,” says Bo Danielsen, Head of Department at SEAS-NVE. “But with smart meters as a critical infrastructure for our business offering 400,000 potential attack points, we needed to ensure the system was as secure as possible.”
The upshot was an approach to the Technical University of Denmark located near to Copenhagen as an outside party for academic input. This resulted in Gurevitch, then a master’s student there, undertaking for his thesis a detailed investigation of SEAS-NVE’s smart metering system from a security perspective and presenting solutions to address problems found.
“Our intention was to create a win-win-win solution for our customers, the company and the vendor by aiming for the most secure system on the market,” says Danielsen.

Advanced Smart Meter Security

The outcome of that investigation was a series of security enhancements to NES’s Patagonia smart metering platform aimed at addressing both the current security needs as well as future issues that may arise during the lifetime of the system.
“These features provide higher levels of protection end to end across the system, from the central management layer at the utility to the internet-connected devices such as data concentrators and the smart meters themselves,” says Gurevitch.
Examples he quotes include improved communications security between the different layers of the system and a new key management system providing automatic key updates at regular intervals. Others include improved intrusion detection based on the smart meter characteristics to detect abnormal behaviours, and improved ‘compartmentalisation’ to ensure that a breach into a meter is restricted to that meter alone.
“Signals of possible security breaches land at the utility management system and with these enhanced features, the false-positive rate has been reduced. So if a signal is received, one can be very sure there is something going on,” he says.

OSGP security compliance

Another outcome of the project that Gurevitch highlights is an update of the security definitions and specifications of the Open Smart Grid Protocol (OSGP), a global open standard for smart grid applications.
“This positively impacts on all those who implement OSGP-based solutions, while from NES’s perspective, the updates automatically benefit all other customers.”
He comments that when he speaks to customers, he wants to hear that the new enhancements are “just another update” that has come virtually unnoticed via a remote firmware upgrade. “It is essential that updates should not change the performance of the system and that the security features are working behind the scenes without impacting on the meter data collection process.
“If a security feature prevents the utility from meeting its KPIs, then it is not a security feature in our view.”

SEAS-NVE security experience

Danielsen says that from SEAS-NVE’s perspective, the partnership between the three parties - utility, academia and  vendor - has been very fruitful.
“Security is a common problem we face as an industry and it has enabled us to have a hands-on role in the direction of developments in this area,” he says.
“If a utility suffers a security breach then it is likely that SEAS-NVE will face a similar attack and we feel it is important to have the bigger picture rather than focus on just our own little corner of the world.”
Danielsen offers one piece of advice to utilities. He states that the remote firmware update process isn’t trivial and needs planning and monitoring to implement and complete for many thousands of smart meters. For his part, Gurevitch, who notes that further security updates are in the pipeline, advises that utilities looking to enhance their security should complete a risk assessment in advance.
“One of the key lessons here is that you need to understand the security issues you are dealing with in order to determine your security needs and priorities. There is no one solution that fits all and a risk assessment is essential.”

NES clarifies that Echelon meters were not associated with the recent 
Static Energy Meter Accuracy Report

San Jose, CA, March 29th, 2017: Networked Energy Services Corporation (NES), a global smart grid solution provider with the industry’s leading Patagonia Energy Applications Platform (EAPTM), announced today the University of Twente in the Netherlands had not tested the accuracy of its meter in the recent published Static Energy Meter Accuracy Report. Recently there have been various industry articles referencing this report that identified meter accuracy errors caused by certain laboratory conditions meant to simulate households using numerous electromagnetic emitting devices. Some of these articles unintentionally misused a photo of an Echelon meter, but the University confirmed that Echelon meters were not part of the meters included in the report.

The University of Twente also informed NES, which was formed from the spinoff of Echelon Corporation’s Grid Modernization Division in 2014, that the University had tested an Echelon meter in a separate previous study by the University.  The Echelon meter tested correctly and accurately, and did not provide the accuracy errors associated with the meters in the well-publicized study.

“In the earlier study, an Echelon meter was also tested, and our testing results show that this is one of the most reliable meters,” said Prof. Frank Leferink from the University of Twente. “In our research, the Echelon meter kept its measurements comparable to the readings of the Ferraris meter.”

In response to the various articles, ESMIG, the European voice of the providers of smart energy solutions, issued a positon paper about the research. ESMIG and its members, which includes NES, announced that while it supports independent research studies, it believes that the study in question did not properly represent real world conditions. ESMIG’s position paper was meant to reassure policy makers, network operators, electricity suppliers and most importantly, European consumers, that the smart metering technology being deployed in Europe is robust, secure and accurate.

“The issue identified in the report is not specific to the measurement technology in a meter but rather how a vendor implements the technology. If designed properly, these types of conditions do not negatively impact the accuracy of meters,” said Andy Robinson, CTO of NES. "We have known about these conditions since 2008 and designed our meters accordingly. NES meters meet, and often surpass, the requirements of the testing standards under the EU Measuring Instruments Directive (MID), which ensure their accuracy, reliability, durability and safety."
About Networked Energy Services Corporation (NES)

Networked Energy Services Corporation is a global smart energy leader in the worldwide transformation of the electricity grid into an energy control network, enabling utilities to provide their customers with a more efficient and reliable service, to protect their systems from current and emerging cybersecurity threats, and to offer innovative new services that enable active, intelligence use of energy. NES was formed as a result of the spinoff of Echelon Corporation’s Grid Modernization Division in October 2014. NES is headquartered in the US with R&D centers located in Silicon Valley, North Dakota and Poland, and sales offices throughout the world. NES’ smart grid technology is used in nearly 40 million smart meters and other smart end devices around the world. NES is a member of the OSGP Alliance, a global association of utilities and smart grid companies, which promotes the Open Smart Grid Protocol and cooperates to provide utilities greater value by enabling true, independently-certified, multi-vendor interoperability based upon open international specifications and standards.  You can find out more information about NES, its Patagonia Energy Applications PlatformTM (including grid management software, distributed control nodes, and smart meters) and services at:

Amsterdam, The Netherlands, November 15, 2016 The OSGP Alliance is pleased to welcome a new member to its growing organization. TAURON Distribution S.A. from Poland is the newest member of the OSGP Alliance. Tauron Distribution, part of the Tauron Group, is the second largest electricity supplier in Poland supplies electricity to approximately 5.4 million customers in Poland.

TAURON Distribution S.A. is in the process of completing the installation of 330,000 smart meters as part of its AMIplus Smart City Wroclaw project. The project, which began in 2014 and is scheduled to be completed in 2017, uses interoperable smart meters from multiple meter vendors that are compliant with OSGP (Open Smart Grid Protocol). 

“The aim of our Wroclaw smart metering project is to provide customers with the tools for effective monitoring of electricity consumption, and assist the company with the next step in improving its electricity distribution process”, says Robert Zasina, President of TAURON Distribution. “Our decision to join the OSGP Alliance is directly because of the results of this project using interoperability OSGP smart meters from NES and Apator. We look forward to contributing to the Alliance and sharing our experiences with other Alliance members,” “The energy industry is facing countless new challenges. Most issues revolve around the 'energy trilemma' meaning the sector is striving to ensure that energy is secure, sustainable and affordable. The vision of OSGP is a strong participation of key industry stakeholders working together to realize the next generation smart grid leading towards the long-term goals of the smart grid: affordability, security and sustainability. We are excited Tauron is joining us in reaching these goals”, says Bo Danielsen, Chairman of the OSGP Alliance. “On behalf of the OSGP Alliance, we look forward to incorporate their knowledge and know-how in the development and implementation of added value services in OSGP.”

This week, the OSPG Alliance is exhibiting at the European Utility Week in Barcelona, which is expected to be attended by more than 12,000 visitors from more than 80 countries.  “We are pleased to be part of this interesting event where we will meet with potential new members, our existing members, and share the latest developments on the Open Smart Grid Protocol and developments in the market”. 

About The Open Smart Grid Protocol

The Open Smart Grid Protocol (OSGP) is a family of specifications published by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) used in conjunction with the ISO/IEC 14908 control networking standard for smart grid applications. OSGP is optimized to provide reliable and efficient delivery of command and control information for smart meters, direct load control modules, solar panels, gateways, and other smart grid devices. With over 5 million OSGP based smart meters and devices deployed worldwide it is one of the most widely used smart meter and smart grid device networking standards.

About The OSGP Alliance

The OSGP Alliance, founded in 2006 as the Energy Services Network Association (ESNA), is an independent global, not-for-profit association that promotes the adoption of the Open Smart Grid Protocol (OSGP) and related services and infrastructure for smart grid applications. Members include utilities, software, hardware and service providers, and solution integrators that share a common goal and vision for promoting open standards for energy demand side management, smart grid and smart metering systems. More information about the OSGP Alliance can be found at


Marie-Louise van Rossum

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