Recommendations issued on practices aimed to expedite system restoration during loss of SCADA, EMS functionality

A new report has issued recommendations for industry-wide consideration regarding practices, procedures, and methodologies aimed to expedite system restoration during a loss of Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) or Energy Management System (EMS) functionality.

The June 9 report – prepared by FERC staff, in consultation with staff from NERC and its regional entities – also said that those recommendations include approaches to system monitoring without SCADA or EMS tools, planning to support system restoration under such conditions, as well as incorporating those measures and approaches into system restoration training.

The report noted that FERC in September 2014 initiated a joint staff review, in partnership with NERC and its eight regional entities, to assess entities’ plans for restoration and recovery of the bulk-power system following a widespread outage or blackout, which culminated in the issuance of a joint report on restoration and recovery plans in January 2016.

While that 2016 report provided a comprehensive understanding of the electric utility’s bulk-power system recovery and restoration planning, it also identified certain issues that went beyond the scope of the review, and recommended further study of those issues, the report said. One of the areas identified for further study was the potential impact of the loss of SCADA systems on system restoration, the report said.

Based on the recommendation in the 2016 report, FERC, NERC and the regional entities initiated a joint study last fall, focusing on the potential impact of the loss of SCADA, EMS, or Inter-Control Center Communications Protocol (ICCP) functionality on system restoration, and the manner in which such impact could be mitigated, the report noted.

The objective of the study was to assess applicable entities’ system restoration plan steps that may be difficult in the absence of SCADA, ICCP data, and/or EMS, and identify viable resources, methods, or practices that would expedite system restoration despite the loss of such systems, according to the report.

In conducting the review, the joint study team gathered information from a representative sample of eight volunteer registered entities, (referred to in the report as the participants), the report said.

In order to facilitate a full and open discussion of each participant’s approach to restoration in the absence of SCADA/EMS functionality, the joint review team agreed not to disclose entity-specific information outside each review group, the report noted.

The joint study team considered several factors when identifying potential participants for the study, seeking entities with significant bulk-power system responsibilities, that are located in different regions, that have gained experience in restoration from extreme conditions or event, and that regularly use SCADA, EMS, ICCP, or other data sources in their bulk-power system operations, the report said.

The study is based on an initial assumption that a blackout event has occurred coincident with the loss of SCADA and/or EMS functionality, and it is not intended to assess the degree to which the participants’ SCADA or EMS systems are able to withstand or quickly recover from a widespread event to complete restoration back to normal operations, the report said.

The joint study team found that all participants have made significant investments in their SCADA and EMS infrastructures, the report said. Furthermore, the joint study team found that all participants would remain capable of executing their restoration plan without SCADA/EMS availability, and that is attributed to some participants’ planning to address loss of SCADA or EMS during system restoration, as well as other participants’ emergency preparedness for conditions such as those without specifically planning for system restoration absent SCADA or EMS, the report said.

However, the report noted, the participants acknowledged that completion of all restoration steps would be more time consuming and more involved under such conditions, especially those steps requiring a larger degree of coordination and those steps performed during later stages of the restoration process.

The report noted that the joint study team recommends that entities review and refine as necessary their backup communications measures and capabilities to ensure that they can be depended on to provide effective means of communications in the event of the loss of normal communications means during system restoration absent SCADA or EMS. That should include a review of their backup or alternative interpersonal (voice) communications systems to ensure that they are capable, available, and reliable for the increased use expected during system restoration without SCADA functionality, the report said.

The joint study team also recommends that entities review and refine their human resource operations support measures, as needed, to support the field and control room personnel necessary for system restoration absent SCADA, the report said.

Among other things, the joint study team recommends that entities – due to the expected increase in time to accomplish system restoration absent SCADA/EMS functionality – review and refine, as necessary, their existing provisions for backup power resources at restoration path substations and other locations identified as priority or critical in system restoration plans, to ensure that they are available for an extended period of time beyond the normal expectation from battery backups, the report said.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3286 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares was TransmissionHub’s chief editor until August 2021, as well as part of the team that established TransmissionHub in 2011. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial from 2005 to 2011. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines.