Home / Industry / Energy /  India plans more power islands to counter cyber, terror threat

India is discussing a plan to create so-called power islanding systems in several cities to protect critical infrastructure from potential attacks on the electricity grid, power minister Raj Kumar Singh said.

Cities including Bengaluru, known as India’s Silicon Valley, and Jamnagar, which has two of India’s largest oil refineries, are among cities being assessed for an islanding system, Singh told lawmakers in parliament Thursday. Existing systems in cities such as New Delhi and Mumbai are being revamped, he said.

The plan follows a major power outage in India’s financial hub Mumbai last year that brought the city to a halt and prompted speculation about a cyber attack. The year before, the country’s nuclear power monopoly reported computer systems at one of its generation plants had been attacked by malware. Power grids the world over are increasingly digitalized, leaving them vulnerable to such attacks.

Islanding systems feature generation capacity and can isolate automatically from the main grid in the event of an outage. For the new systems, provinces need to submit proposals for setting up generation and storage capacities, Singh said in his written comments Thursday.

The strategy was questioned in some quarters.

“Islanding entire cities is a very 20th-century idea," said Reji Pillai, president of the India Smart Grid Forum, which advises the government and utilities on smart grid technologies. “Where’s the space in Bengaluru for setting up new generation plants, and without adequate generation capacity within the islanded area what is the purpose of islanding?"

Instead, Pillai recommended smart microgrids for isolating smaller areas, such as commercial and industrial complexes, shopping malls, airports, defense units, railway stations and hospitals. The system would be connected to the main network and could isolate automatically in the event of an outage. The microgrids would run on a mix of battery and rooftop solar power, he said.

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