- A Week in Smart Metering

Insurance companies could be overreacting to cybersecurity threats-perceived or not, says Rose Bundock, editor of
Published: Wed 29 Jul 2015
It is a given that insurance companies will imagine the worst-case scenario of any situation.  
So when we covered a new report this week from Lloyd’s and the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Risk Studies on cyber attacks on the US power grid, we were reaching for our pinches of salt.

The document - Business Blackout - paints a hypothetical scenario of an electricity blackout that plunges 15 US states including New York City and Washington DC into darkness and leaves 93 million people without power - a storyline worthy of any disaster movie.

While admitting that the scenario is "improbable”, the report does say it is technologically “possible”. 

Under this imagined scenario, the US power grid is infected with malware that affects generation control rooms before causing generators to burn out causing outages for weeks.

The cost to the US economy? Estimated at US$243 billion rising to more than US$1 trillion in the most extreme versions of the scenario. 

So how should a utility respond to the report? Risk aversion is no bad thing within such a crucial service as power generation and transmission, but equally utilities can’t operate in a daily climate of fear.

But one thing is clear - energy suppliers and businesses should take a careful look at their insurance policies to see how the small print might be changing as cyber security becomes an ever more real (or perceived) threat.   

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French technology company Sagemcom is in the news again this week for scooping a smart meter deal in Luxembourg. A consortium led by Sagemcom will deliver an end-to-end electricity and natural gas smart meter system with 400,000 collection points in Luxembourg.

In South-East Asia, the Philippines' largest distributor of electric power Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) this week launched a smart grid research and development centre. The facility called PowerTech is designed as an incubator for smart grid components as well as technical training.

In Europe, France's electricity grid operator ERDF last month awarded contracts for the first installations of Linky smart meters. ERDF selected 16 installation companies through a European-wide tender process.

A US tech startup has publicised its vision of aggregating smart meters into a low-cost super computer. In an interview with Forbes magazine, Hive Computing Inc. explains the concept of meshing the spare capacity of smart meters to create a networked supercomputer that can be using for system modelling or encryption data analysis.

Smart meters GB: lack of test stubs is ‘too much risk’
In the UK, major energy suppliers, including British Gas, E.ON, Utilita, SSE and nPower, have voiced concerns over the government's proposals on testing methods as part of the national smart meter rollout.