EPB, National Laboratories Earn Award For Cyberattack Protection Technology

November 16, 2021

by Paul Ciampoli
APPA News Director
November 16, 2021

Chattanooga, Tenn.-based public power utility EPB and the Oak Ridge and Los Alamos National Laboratories have received an award for a joint project that is developing technology to protect America’s electric grid from cyberattacks.

Specifically, the public power utility and the national laboratories received an R&D 100 Award. Established in 1963, the R&D 100 Awards annually recognize 100 accomplishments in research leading to new commercial products, technologies and materials from around the world notable for their technological significance.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Los Alamos and EPB have worked together for several years on the “QED: Quantum Ensured Defense of the Smart Electric Grid” project.

QED uses quantum communications in an effort to protect power grid control signals from third-party infiltration. EPB is the only utility in the U.S. that is field testing this quantum technology.

The technology harnesses single particles of light, or photons, to distribute cryptographic keys that can be used to lock control signals into secret codes to protect the electric grid. This novel method brings the security assurances of quantum communication systems to long-haul distances of electric grid systems.

The team has demonstrated the operational use of QED on part of a 21-kilometer field test bed on EPB’s smart grid and 100% fiber optic network in Chattanooga, Tenn. Together the scientists are seeking ways to escape the ongoing attack-defend cycle of cybersecurity breeches by developing this new method of protecting information.

This project is part of a larger collaboration including industry partner Qubitekk, based in San Diego, California.

Funding for this project was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security and Emergency Response.

EPB serves the greater Chattanooga area and delivers electricity to more than 170,000 homes and businesses across our 600 square mile service area which includes most of Hamilton County as well as parts of surrounding counties in both Tennessee and Georgia.

In 2010, EPB Fiber Optics, which offers internet, TV, and telephone services, became the first provider in the United States to deliver up to 1 Gig internet speeds utilizing a community-wide fiber optic network which is accessible to every home and business in its service area.

In 2015, EPB became the first, and to date, only American internet service provider to make up to 10 Gig (10,000 Mbps) internet speeds accessible to all its residential and commercial customers as a standard offer.

EPB has also utilized its community-wide fiber optic network to deploy the most advanced and highly automated smart grid power management system in the nation.