The cyber threat to our key infrastructure
Credit: Andrey Metelev on unsplash

The cyber threat to our key infrastructure

Smart grids are making our electricity systems more responsive and reliable, better able to handle the addition of more renewable generation, and they are contributing to reducing costs. But they also bring cyber risks.

Summary: The way our current electricity grid works is showing its age. The good news is that smart grids can make the system more responsive and reliable, enable the addition of more renewable generation, and contribute to reducing costs. But they also bring risks. They can make the systems more venerable to cyber attack, and with these coming with increasing regularity, this is a topic that everyone in sustainability finance needs to understand.

Why this is important: The electrification of many of our economic activities is a critical element in delivering the sustainability transitions. But, if we cannot safely move electricity around, or if we end up increasing the risk that the system can be taken down, then the process will be slower or even stall. Digitalisation of our electricity systems is a big positive, but we must do it with one eye on cyber security.

The big theme: Many governments around the world have set targets to decarbonise their electricity generation systems. Achieving this requires us to build a lot more renewable electricity generation, but its also about creating a smart electricity grid that is decentralised, flexible, and able to accommodate the demands that the variable generation such as wind and solar brings. This will include electricity storage, interconnectors, demand management, and grid resilience.

The details

Most of you will recall the rupture of the Nord Stream gas pipeline in 2022, and the the 2015 cyber takedown of large portions of the Ukraine electricity grid, followed in 2022 by the attack on the Viasat satellite communication system. Plus, we have had repeated cyber hacks and ransomware attacks on major companies, including the disruption to US air travel in January 2023, and the apparent attack on Capita Group.

More recently we have had suggestions that China is building cyber weapons to hijack satellites, and that Russia has a programme to sabotage wind farms and communication cables in the North Sea.

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