Uttar Pradesh is a state in northern India. With roughly 200 million inhabitants, it is the most populous state in India. The Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) is operating in this region more than 1.2 million smart meters.
On last Wednesday (Aug.12 2020) around 3:30 PM, a command was given by someone to disconnect all 1.23 million smart meters in Uttar Pradesh. EESL discovered the case around one hour later and stopped the disconnection process. At that time already about 150,000 households have been cut from power supply. The reconnection process was finished around midnight. Several hundreds of meters had to be reconnected manually.
How can this happen?
EESL is using L&T (Larsen & Toubro) as their vendor for Head-End system integration. By the actual status of the investigation either an L&T insider has issued the disconnection command or there was a technical defect.
In my humbled opinion a technical problem would be worse for L&T, so I assume that it finally will run out in sabotage by a single person.
EESL had already implemented a security measure. Disconnection was only allowed in batches of 50 with prior approvals of the power distribution companies (Discoms). Now each single disconnection needs to be approved by EESL.
The 50 meter batch rule obviously didn’t work.
I’m sure that EESL and L&T are running a lot of system security checks in the next weeks or months.
Even when your AMI system is secured against hacking by proper key-management, there is still a risk of incidents like this. It could have been avoided by implementing a simple additional command plausibility check.
A smart grid is a piece of sensitive infrastructure, you need to consider all possibilities for a security breach.
For me it’s up to now the largest case of unwanted smart meter shutdown. And it will not be the last one. If you intend to source an AMI system solution also focus on system security. Competent manufacturers and system integrators will be able to explain their concepts in detail.
Updated News 21.08.2020
According to Finacialexpress the installation of new smart meters is on hold for the next 14 days. According to the news the minister requests to “form an expert committee to look into the fault of the already installed 12 lakh smart meters in the state.”
(Note: lakh is an in India commonly used abbreviation for a hundred thousand.)
It’s quite interesting. In my humbled opinion the meters have no fault. They got a disconnect command and they executed it. Meter suppliers are Genus Power with 50 %, L&T with 30 % and Allied Engineering the remaining 20 % of the order.
From the timing (150 k meters/hour) it looks like the majority of meters is communicating via power line (PLC). Also, the communication is working well.
The key questions is, how was the command issued?
Another quote: “While it is understood to have resulted from a wrong server command generated from the centralized control and command centre, no one is sure as to who gave the wrong command and why.”
Are there no log-files? Traceability of commands given by the central system is essential.
Other sources are reporting about a glitch. What a sweet word for a system malfunction.
Thanks for reading. If you like please contribute with your experience in the comments field below.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in August 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.