Distributed Energy Resources Cybersecurity Outlook: Vulnerabilities, Attacks, Impacts, and Mitigations

The digitization and decentralization of the electric power grid represent crucial steps toward achieving both economic and environmental sustainability. In pursuit of this objective, distributed energy resources (DERs), such as rooftop solar panels, battery storage systems, and electric vehicles, are increasingly integrated into power systems. These DERs offer several advantages to power utilities by reducing operational costs and deferring investments for the expansion of the power system network while also affording users and aggregators greater control over their electricity generation and consumption.

The interconnected nature, interoperability, and remote controllability of DERs underscore the critical importance of cybersecurity in this domain. However, the communication dependencies among DERs and the diverse architectural configurations they present expand the threat landscape, intensifying the cybersecurity challenges faced by power systems.

This research focuses on identifying security oversights existing within both the cyber and physical layers of DERs, which could jeopardize the reliable operation of the power grid. While previous studies have acknowledged the impact of cyberattacks targeting DER assets, they often concentrate solely on specific system components (such as communication protocols), fail to consider the mission-critical objectives of DERs, or overlook the adversarial perspective, including adversary and attack models.

To address these gaps, in collaboration with Professor Nikos D. Hatziargyriou (National Technical University of Athens and the University of Vaasa), our study comprehensively analyzes the capabilities and objectives of adversaries when manipulating DER assets. We illustrate how vulnerabilities at the protocol and device levels can be exploited to launch cyberattacks that have the potential to disrupt power system operations. Finally, we offer mitigation strategies to counter these adversarial threats and outline directions for future research in the emerging field of DER cybersecurity.


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Zografopoulos, I., Hatziargyriou, N. D., Konstantinou, C. (2023). Distributed energy resources cybersecurity outlook: Vulnerabilities, attacks, impacts, and mitigations. IEEE Systems Journal.