Worldwide initiatives to modernize the electricity delivery systems, at both the bulk interconnection and local community scales, promise increased reliability, efficiency, and sustainability through the use of advanced information (cyber) and electrical energy (physical) infrastructure. The power grid's increasing dependence on information systems and technologies however challenges its capability to become aware of and accordingly recover from unexpected incidents. This is because the traditional situational awareness paradigm in grid operations has so far limited to events and contingencies at the physical grid layer. A vivid example of this limitation is the recent cyber-attacks to the Ukrainian power grid, where cyber intrusions invisible to grid operators caused unauthorized tripping of circuit breakers and thereby wide-area blackouts. To address this status quo, the objective of this CAREER project is to equip grid operators with better tools to monitor the underlying cyber-states, particularly focusing on the operational quality and security of the cyber layer. Its successful completion will transform the grid operational paradigm by providing integrated situational awareness capabilities of both cyber and physical assets, towards more efficient, secure, and resilient power gird infrastructures.

The overarching goal of this CAREER project is to develop a suite of improved situational awareness tools that can seamlessly bridge the cyber-physical layers of today's electricity delivery infrastructures. At the bulk transmission level, we propose to revitalize the design of traditional energy control center systems, in particular the topology processing and security analysis modules, to jointly infer the cyber-physical operating states and to efficiently evaluate the security impacts of potential cyber-physical contingencies. As for small-footprint microgrids, we propose to investigate the flexibility and vulnerability trade-offs between centralized and distributed architectures in the presence of cyber-intrusions to communication links. Our research plan consists of three cohesive thrusts: T1) Optimal topology inference and cyber state estimation using a multitude of cyber-physical data; T2) Real-time cyber-physical dynamic security assessment by developing the 'cyber-contingency distribution factors' and model-free stability analysis methods; and T3) Distributed microgrid operations under cyber-physical disturbances and countermeasure designs. This CAREER development plan will also integrate an education plan with the research goals by i) developing a learning platform with cyber-physical grid visualization that is appropriate for pre-college students, ii) introducing course projects and special topics on the cyber aspects to college-level power engineering curricula, and iii) promoting undergraduate research experience especially for female and under-represented engineering students.

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University of Texas Austin
United States
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