Brattle Group: Energy Efficiency in 2020

September 15, 2011 by

Energy Efficiency — 2020 – “Efficiency pessimists contend that energy efficiency (inclusive of demand response) is unlikely to make much of a dent on energy consumption and peak demand in the year 2020 since all the low-hanging fruit has been harvested. Ergo, the solution to meeting the nation’s future energy needs in a carbon-constrained future is to build more power plants (preferably those that don’t burn coal), transmission lines and distribution systems.

Efficiency optimists, on the other hand, contend that energy efficiency is essentially an inexhaustible well and we have a long ways to go before the bottom is reached. Their viewpoint suggests that enhancements in energy efficiency may eliminate the need to make investments in the power supply system, except for routine maintenance and upgrades.

And finally, efficiency realists contend that the truth is somewhere in between.


Another Cyber Attack

September 14, 2011 by

Security firm McAfee has revealed details of a large scale cyber attack that has been launched against global energy companies, specifically in the oil and gas industries.

Starting in November 2009, the attacks targeted proprietary operations and project-financing information on oil and gas field bids and operations. McAfee said the highly sensitive nature of these bids can make or break multi-billion dollar bids.

McAfee has dubbed the attacks “Night Dragon” and claims they are likely to have originated in China. McAfee CTO George Kurtz says that “The tools, techniques, and network activities used in these attacks originate primarily in China. These tools are widely available on the Chinese Web forums and tend to be used extensively by Chinese hacker groups.”

Hackers used a combination of vectors to access the systems, including social engineering, spear-phishing, Windows exploits, Active Directory compromises, and the use of remote administration tools (RATs).  “The tools simply appear to be standard host administration techniques that utilise administrative credentials. This is largely why they are able to evade detection by standard security software and network policies.”

A White Paper released by McAfee goes in to more details about the hacks. The attacks began with a SQL-injection technique, which compromised external web servers. Common hacking tools were then used to access intranets, giving attackers access to internal servers and desktops. Usernames and passwords were then harvested and after disabling Internet Explorer proxy settings, hackers were able to establish direct communication from infected machines to the Internet.

Kurtz went on to explain that attacks similar to this are increasing in number. “Well-coordinated, targeted attacks such as Night Dragon, orchestrated by a growing group of malicious attackers committed to their targets, are rapidly on the rise,” he wrote.   “More and more, these attacks focus not on using and abusing machines within the organisations being compromised, but rather on the theft of specific data and intellectual property,” he added. “Focused and efficient define the very essence of today’s attackers — a clear example of how cybercrime has evolved to a very professional activity.”

Intel on Stuxnet

September 3, 2011 by


Home Energy Management & Blackouts

September 2, 2011 by

Commentary on Black Outs and Home Energy Management

Why Power Grid Networks Are the Lowest Cost Solution

September 1, 2011 by

Recently, in Smart Grid News, Jesse Berst queried:  “Why are American utilities spending twice what the Europeans do for smart meters? Why aren’t they using joint standards and joint procurement to achieve economies of scale and drive down prices?

“This screw-up will squander at least $2 trillion over five years.  Who will foot the bill?  As the old joke goes, one of three groups — rate-payers, consumers, or taxpayers.

$2 billion may be understating things – An American friend working in Europe tells me the typical cost there is $40 per meter (plus $15 for the communications by the way).  In america he says typical prices are $110 to $120 per meter (and about $50 for the communications).

To make the mat easier, let’s say American utilities will install 50 million smart meters over five years.  And let’s say they will spend $40 more than the Europeans (My Friend says it’s more ike $70 to $80 more).  On my calculator, that comes out to $2 billion.

 Municipal and co-op organizations such APPA and NRECA often do joint research and sometimes joint buying.  Federal Agencies such as BPA and TVA have run a few buying programs over the years.  But for the most part, American utilities can’t be bothered to cooperate and collaborate, even with $2 billion at stake….

Power Grid Networks creates a ‘framework’ agreement for all its grid components — including smart meters.  The more units it purchases from its suppliers, the lower the unit cost.  Of course, the utility entering into a service agreement with the PGN gets the benefits as well, through lower usage fees over its 5 year billing period, based on a fraction of the Capital Expenditures.