html{display:none} 2020 Agenda | Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories

9:00—10:30 a.m.


Executive Panel

Moderator: David E. Whitehead, P.E.
Chief Executive Officer, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories

11:00 a.m.—12:00 p.m.


Keynote Presentation

Christopher D. Roberti

Chief of Staff and Senior Vice President
Cyber, Intelligence, and Security Division, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

3:15—5:00 p.m.

Cybersecurity Solutions: Balancing a Connected Power System and Associated Risks

Moderator: Dr. Ryan Bradetich
Vice President of Automation and Communication, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories

The idea of remote connection and the data collection that comes with it is becoming more and more popular among utilities, fueled in part by the ability to respond to power system events much faster. As utilities enable remote access and deploy any array of smart grid technologies, they get the benefit of improved reliability and a lower cost of operation. But with that, the cybersecurity risk increases.

Correctly mitigating the increased threat vector requires a thorough understanding of operational technology (OT) requirements and functionality. This includes knowing what assets a device is protecting, the communications speed requirements, and the impact a specific outage might have on a larger scale. Then, you must understand what risks can be eliminated with technology or processes and which ones are acceptable.

Only when these risks are fully understood can you get a cost-effective cybersecurity solution that doesn’t negatively impact the safe and reliable operation of the power system. This panel will explore the effects of a more digitized and connected electric power system and the best practices, strategies, and tools we can use to make cybersecurity stronger across electric power systems.

Topic Highlights

  • Understanding risk assessments: how to define the risk, what to mitigate, and what to accept.
  • Solutions for managing systems and products throughout their lifecycle.
  • Cost of ownership: Does adding enhanced cybersecurity features that require constant monitoring and updating drive up the cost of ownership without ensuring security?
  • Benefits of intrusion detection systems and intrusion prevention systems, which can predict if a breach is about to happen and, in some cases, take actions to prevent the spread of a breach.
  • Utility perspective on security control integration, OT network performance, physical security, achieving cybersecurity compliance to industry standards, and personnel training.

Wednesday, April 8

8:00—10:00 a.m.

Our Distributed Energy Future

Moderator: Dr. Greg Zweigle
Fellow Engineer, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories

The source of electric power is undergoing rapid change. New generation sources are often small in size, with low inertia, and based on less reliable renewable sources. In many cases, generation is installed outside of utility planning and control. Often, it is being placed in a distribution grid originally intended for loads, not generation. Meanwhile, electric power is the safest, cleanest, most reliable and valuable method to transport energy. Society demands continuously increasing power system performance. Given these trends, this session will look at the latest ideas for designing, deploying, and operating distributed energy sources. What is the true value of distributed energy, and how can we achieve it?

Topic Highlights

  • The value of adding grid-forming inverters to the power system, which provide inertial response and better control over dynamics, and how to address complexity during the transformation.
  • Adapting to the realities of a power system with thousands of small generation sources spread out at the distribution level and discussing the fundamentals of distributed control.
  • How distributed resources can provide more value than centralized generation and what type of planning this would require as well as the resulting regulatory implications.
  • The value of achieving 100 percent renewables and the effect—positive or negative—this could have on the power system.

1:00—2:45 p.m.

Using Technology to Mitigate Wildfire Risk

Moderator: Tyson Salewske
Sales and Customer Service Director, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories

Safe, abundant, and reliable electric power provides tremendous value to society and drives virtually every aspect of our economy. For an industry that delivers its product across a vast footprint at the speed of light, its safety record is impressive. However, delivering electric power has inherent risks, and those risks increase during adverse weather conditions that test the resiliency of the enormous infrastructure that comprises the power grid. To ensure public safety, it is vital to identify wildfire ignition risks and mitigate them through preventive maintenance, strategic operational practices, and system hardening by leveraging technology. This session will explore the challenges facing wildfire prone areas and strategies to mitigate risk.

Topic Highlights

  • How the intent and mechanics of CA Senate Bill 90—Wildfire Mitigation Plans impacts utilities.
  • Technologies and strategies utilities have implemented to mitigate wildfire risk.
  • How predictive analytics could be used to detect and prevent fire risks.

2020 Agenda

Tuesday, April 7

8:00—9:00 a.m.

Welcoming Keynote

The Value of Safe, Reliable, Economical Power

Dr. Edmund O. Schweitzer, III

President, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories

“I often wish that I could see 50 years ahead… a co-operation that will lead to a cost of energy so low as to place it within the reach of all.” —Samuel Insull, 1913

In a word, he was talking about value. For Insull today, it would literally be a dream come true to see how the industry has grown to add such immense value to peoples’ lives.

The possibilities enabled by smart grid solutions, fast cybersecurity protection, efficient fiber use, and fast remedial action schemes have allowed engineers to make electric power faster, safer, and more reliable for people around the world, whether in a bustling city or remote village getting power for the very first time.

Breakthrough new technologies reduce the fault response from a cycle to a millisecond, producing a value that reaches far beyond the cost of the instruments and their installation: better stability margins, less damage, and simple application to series-compensated lines.

But as we keep advancing—as we keep adding features, pushing to go faster, diversifying loads and generation, interconnecting devices—how do we make sure we are still providing value? How can we ensure, as Insull put it, that we’re providing the best possible service at the lowest possible price?

Our electric power systems are not laboratories. We need to be careful, yet deliberate; patient, yet open. We’ll make the smoothest, safest, happiest, most successful, and valuable changes that way. After all, it is just amazing that we move our commodity—energy—at the speed of light!

1:00—2:45 p.m.

Moving From Uncertainty to Engineering Trusted Systems

Moderator: Frank Harrill, CISSP
Director of Security, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories

As we find ourselves in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution—an era defined by the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and the convergence of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT)—it’s time to take a critical look at legacy communications protocols that are still widely used today. Once effective for the small, centralized networks created at the beginning of digital computing, many of these communications protocols remain largely unchanged today, bringing with them inherent risks and security challenges—all in the name of convenience.

Additionally, every new service or feature added to a system, even if it is meant to be protective, has the potential to be compromised and turned into an attack tool. The layering of services and features that must be protected by additional services and features lowers the overall value of our power systems. Yet the threat environment has become so sophisticated and complex that no single control will ever be effective, which means that each added feature must be deliberate; we must have a clear vision of what we hope to accomplish.

This panel will explore what brought us to this point, the realities and challenges of today’s cyber environment, and possible solutions to secure our distributed networks without lowering their value.

Topic Highlights:

  • Assessing the impact of adding remote/wireless communications to power system devices, which make them vulnerable to exploits that can be performed remotely and without user knowledge.
  • How rapid global adoption of standard communications protocols fueled a fourth industrial revolution as well as the potentially gaping security challenges we’ve only begun to address at scale.
  • The importance of interlocking security layers and the promise of application whitelisting.
  • Methods to ensure that the third-party code, which lies at the heart of many devices and software used to protect and control critical infrastructure, is vetted and maintained with the same rigor as the firmware and software that incorporates it.

10:30 a.m.—12:00 p.m.


Keynote Presentation

David W. Roop

Principal Consultant
DWR Associates, LLC

3:15—5:00 p.m.

The Value of Speed

Moderator: Tony Lee
Chief Research and Development Officer, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories

Humans value speed; we want everything faster. Faster highway speeds. Faster planes and shorter lines at the airport. Faster internet with less buffering. Lower product lead times. We want our questions answered and curiosity satisfied—now.

We value speed even more when there is trouble. That’s why fire engines have lights and sirens, why Life Flight exists, and why crews come from near and far to help local utilities restore power after a natural disaster.

One measure of speed we use in business, and especially in manufacturing, is “JIT” or “Just in Time.” JIT is the notion that something is available right when it is needed. It is a lack of delay, lack of buffering, and lack of queuing. Anything other than JIT is wasteful because, by definition, it involves unnecessary delay.

There is something immensely powerful about working to make something faster. It compels us to challenge the layers of assumptions and constraints—both real and imagined—that surround a process, device, or service. It forces us to return to the basics, our first principles, which almost always leads to the invention of something better.

This session will explore the value of speed, or the value of reduced delay, and the value of seeking ever-faster ways of doing things.

Topic Highlights

  • The value of reduced lead times and how they affect customers, processes, and business.
  • Why we should challenge consumer perceptions and expectations of speed, as evidenced with relays that trip in milliseconds while breakers still take cycles to open.
  • The value of early intrusion detection and preventing cyber attacks before people even know they’re occurring.
  • The science of our “greed for speed”—why we’re hardwired to want everything faster.
  • The speed of innovation and how it has shaped our culture.

Thursday, April 9

8:00—9:30 a.m.


Keynote Presentation

Mitchell E. Daniels Jr.

President, Purdue University

10:00 a.m.—12:00 p.m.

The Future of the Electric Power Industry

Moderator: David Costello, P.E.
Chief Sales and Services Officer, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories

As the final session of the conference begins, we’ll have covered several crucial topics in varying states of transformation in the electric power industry. Our evolving cybersecurity risks, inverters, diversified loads and generation, smarter grids, wildfires, our “greed for speed”—we have a lot going on. How do we make these massive shifts today and also allow for flexibility in addressing future, unforeseen needs? How can we keep pushing for speed, efficiency, reliability, service—how can we keep pushing for maximum value?

Speakers in this session will reflect on the previous panel sessions and keynotes and pose their own views on the challenges and future of our industry.