Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Smarter than smart-grid?

Suddenly, we are under a push to switch over to “smart-grid” power metering. On the surface, this technology holds vast potential: It could inspire many of us to conserve precious energy; and some Idaho communities are already doing this. However, we would be to wise to ensure that these smart systems are highly-hacker resistant, before wider-scale implementation. For instance, imagine an enemy, breaking into the grid to shut down the full configuration, and potentially causing long-term damage to power lines, substations and home electrical systems. This is not farfetched, as nefarious hackers have already infected various financial intuitions, global security systems and millions of personal computers. Smart-grid meters are equally susceptible to these types of online attacks.

As we use them more broadly, smart-grid power systems will likely edge up higher on the list of hacker targets. As this happens, leading members of our Idaho Public Utilities Commission would do well, to take their oversight roles seriously on this important issue. It would be refreshing to hear our utility commissioners require Idaho Power to pass a wide array of ongoing security tests, before granting statewide approval.

Otherwise, our too-clever-by-half, super-reliance on technology, might reveal that the wisest owls in Idaho are those who thrive, way up yonder in the piney-wood, in smart-looking cabins, simply chopping firewood and carrying water, utterly off the wavering grid.

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