Better modeling is needed to accurately determine the impacts of disruption of smart power grids on communication networks and vice versa, according to a review of existing literature by researchers at the Energy's Department’s Argonne National Laboratory and the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Their report, “Electric Power Grid Resilience with Interdependencies between Power and Communication Networks - A Review,” was recently published in IET Smart Grid, a journal from the Institution of Engineering and Technology.
“Because of the development of smart grid technology, today’s power grid infrastructures are increasingly and heavily coupled with communication networks for many new and existing power applications,” the researchers wrote. “The interdependent relationship between the two systems, in which power control relies on the communication system to deliver control and monitoring messages and network devices require power supplies from the electrical grid, brings challenges in the effort to build a highly resilient integrated infrastructure.”
However, a review of existing literature shows that the interdependent relationship between the two systems and the resulting impact to resiliency “have not drawn enough attention from academia and industry,” according to the researchers.
“The interdependent relationship creates an additional level of difficulty in enhancing the resilience of both infrastructures,” they write.
The problem comes when there is a large-scale natural disaster. Because they are so intertwined, these two systems may both be damaged.
The researchers recommend alternative ways to model the interdependent relationship, such as combining the equation-based modeling in both power and communication systems to form a feedback loop of the entire
This feedback loop analysis is necessary because a communication network failure may not directly impact some specific power system components, but it will cause problems when a future power incident happens, according to the researchers. This relationship leads to a closed-loop cascading scenario. The researchers looked at what typically happens after a natural disaster. Utilities send repair crews and others to find their distribution system. However, this process is usually hindered because of a lack of information because cellphone coverage is typically spotty after a disaster.
To understand and protect these systems, it is necessary to focus on the individual systems and the way they all work together during failure and recovery times.