TransnetBW introduces IT architecture for smart meters

The German Act on the Digitalization of the Energy Transition (Gesetz zur Digitalisierung der Energiewende) has ordered the nationwide roll-out of smart meters in Germany. This is also having an impact on transmission system operators. In a joint project with Lufthansa Industry Solutions, the Baden-Württemberg-based transmission system operator TransnetBW is coming up with solutions to meet these stringent statutory requirements.

The customer

TransnetBW GmbH, with its headquarters in Stuttgart, operates the electrical transmission grid in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. With some 600 employees, the company ensures that electricity is supplied to 11 million consumers, including many industrial companies of international significance. TransnetBW manages and monitors energy flows in the grid, ensures that the grid is maintained, and also takes care of grid planning and development, and expansions to the grid. Its customers and partners include numerous electricity traders, as well as power plant and distribution network operators both in Germany and abroad. This young company grew out of the former EnBW Transportnetze AG in 2012 and is now one of the major players in the energy Transition.

The challenge

The starting point for the project was the German Act on the Digitalization of the Energy Transition, which took effect on September 2, 2016. It imposes an obligation on meter operators to roll out smart meters. Smart meters transmit measurements electronically via the internet, thereby replacing manual readings. Smart meters are playing a central role in the realization of the energy transition. This is because it is becoming more and more difficult to balance out energy generation and consumption due to the increasing spread of decentralized, renewable sources of energy. Line voltage and frequency have to remain stable, even in the face of heavily fluctuating feeds – due to energy coming from renewable sources – in order to ensure a secure supply in the European electrical grid. Smart meters provide the data required about energy consumption and the condition of the grid in a timely manner. In the long term, this will create a foundation for improving the way the electrical grid is managed.

The challenge for the transmission system operators who receive the data is that, once the roll-out has been completed, millions of smart electricity meters will be sending their measurement data via the open internet. Electrical grid operators cannot be exposed to any risk as a result of this, as a hacker attack on a communications network or an electrical grid operator’s critical systems could have devastating consequences – even culminating in a large-scale, complete power outage.

In order to prevent such a thing from happening, the legislature has laid out stringent security stipulations to protect grid operators’ critical IT systems. For example, each measurement must be transmitted in encrypted form. Ultimately, the aim is to protect personal data too – there are stringent data protection requirements in place for this as well. This necessitates the use of security certificates like the ones used in banking. TransnetBW therefore has to be able to prove that it has assessed and managed all risks using a suitable security concept in order to rule out any threats. These statutory stipulations also mean that there will be wide-ranging technical and organizational changes for TransnetBW. In the years to come, approximately 200,000 smart meters in Baden-Württemberg alone will be transmitting their measurements to TransnetBW electronically using the smart meter PKI.

The solution

In order to meet these statutory requirements and high standards, Lufthansa Industry Solutions has been helping TransnetBW to plan and implement its Digitalizing the Energy Transition (Digitalisierung der Energiewende) project. This includes helping project management to redesign processes and providing assistance on the issues of IT security and test management.

There have been discussions taking place in joint workshops with all of the company divisions involved about which new tasks and workflows will have to be introduced in order to meet all of the (security) requirements. Moreover, TransnetBW has had to redefine some responsibilities.

One central component of the project has been the preparation of a comprehensive IT security concept that proves that TransnetBW is dealing with risks effectively. One part of this meant carrying out an in-depth review of its IT operations, including any connected smart meters, along with risks and protection needs. On the basis of this risk assessment, technical and organizational measures were then developed to reduce those risks.

Lufthansa Industry Solutions is also applying its experience in order to assist TransnetBW in the technical implementation of a secure IT architecture. This IT architecture ensures that data can be sent over the open internet, the certificates for the data being entered can be reviewed and regular security updates can be carried out, but that this never poses any risk to the TransnetBW systems that are critical to security.

Moreover, Lufthansa Industry Solutions has also been able to apply best practices from other projects to the topic of test management, because the smart metering systems being used are still new: up until stable operations, the devices have to be tested extensively, errors must be fixed and knowledge needs to be accumulated.

The customer benefit

TransnetBW meets the requirements of the German Act on the Digitalization of the Energy Transition and is ensuring that its IT and data are secure. With this project and Lufthansa Industry Solutions’ help, the transmission system operator is perfectly equipped to meet future requirements.

We have found an experienced, trustworthy consulting partner in Lufthansa Industry Solutions, who has provided us with excellent support during the implementation of the statutory framework conditions of the German Meter Operations Act (Messstellenbetriebsgesetzes) in the form of its methodological competence and its structured approach. We are looking forward to benefiting from its experience and expertise in the fields of IT security and the energy industry in future projects as well.

Tobias Scheidel
TransnetBW Project Manager