A process sector that lies on the cyber frontline, daily
12 Nov 2018
Of all the various process industries, the energy and utilities sectors are the most at risk in today’s world.
In the economic sphere, the issues and uncertainties are to a greater degree shared. The ubiquitous Brexit raises a question for all, over supply chains, delivery, purchase and export/import.
There is however a particular challenge regarding the supply of energy. Coal is on the slow road to extinction, in this country at least, while oil and gas may be available but their usual domestic sources are contracting; other sources close to home such as shale cannot yet be properly assessed for their full potential because of consistent opposition within Parliament and the population at large.
Meanwhile, dependence on more abundant foreign channels requires a careful balance between availability, cost and security aspects.
Which leaves the nuclear and renewable options, both of which offer the reassurance of abundant sources that reside within UK borders.
Global realities suggest it will be necessary for new levels of such cooperation, even within nations whose instincts are to avoid it
If only things were so clear cut. Nuclear’s fortunes vacillate each time projects spectacularly overrun on delivery or cost and the low carbon future which it and renewables promise comes with caveats.
Efficient, affordable delivery depends upon a smart system that is sufficiently flexible in dealing with fluctuating demand and supply. Smart systems require a level of connectivity that creates the potential for unmatched vulnerability to what the intelligence community defines as ‘hostile actors’.
It means that utilities and the energy system are at the forefront of what is a different kind of warfare; undeclared, devoid of bombs and bullets, but unremittingly daily in occurrence.
For states which make little distinction between government and the commercial world, that is unlikely to pose fundamental problems.
Not so in Britain and the western world, where nearly 60 years ago, Dwight D Eisenhower, stepping down as US President and himself a former general, warned first against the unchecked activities of the military-industrial complex.
His warning is prescient; global realities suggest it will be necessary for new levels of such cooperation, even within nations whose instincts are to avoid it.