The CAPRICA Project will be led by Prof Sakir Sezer who is based at CSIT
The CAPRICA Project will be led by Prof Sakir Sezer who is based at CSIT

The Converged Approach towards Resilient Industrial control systems and Cyber Assurance (CAPRICA) project will investigate vulnerabilities within the national grid as wind or solar generated electricity comes on stream. Where the grid operates over the telecoms network it could be vulnerable. 

It is one of four new projects made up of a £2.5 million initiative, co-funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and UK’s National Cyber Security Programme. The initiative will focus on cyber-security of the UK’s critical infrastructure including power stations, the electricity grid and the rail network.

Energy production and distribution is undergoing radical change driven by a "Green" agenda pushing for increased energy conservation, greater emphasis on renewable energy sources and more sophisticated demand side business models. The UK currently has 12% of its energy requirements met by wind farms. This percentage is set to grow as wind generated electricity is imported from neighbouring countries. For example Ireland (where already 50% of domestic energy requirements are met by wind farms) will become a net exporter of wind generated electricity in the near future.

The significance of this market change cannot be underestimated and will lead to broad infrastructural change. Wind generated electricity is bursty in nature, largely unpredictable and seldom occurs when consumer demand is greatest. This is true of most renewable energy sources. Wind farms are typically sited in remote areas of low population density and collectively represent a highly distributed generation source. This is in stark contrast to the traditional grid which can be characterised as a strictly hierarchical, centrally managed network of carbon or nuclear energy fuelled generators which can accurately predict demand side requirements and vary their output accordingly.

Grid infrastructure and methods of operation will change radically in order to accommodate new, distributed, renewable energy generation and a growing population of prosumers - retail customers who consume and produce energy in tandem. The technical challenges are manifold and many of the assumptions underpinning traditional grid operations are rapidly dissolving. Energy network operators urgently need new guidance and direction to meet the dual challenges of:

1. Maintaining operational control over new, highly distributed generation facilities embedded in a prosumer driven, highly connected, ICT dependent, grid infrastructure.

2. Implementing sufficient control measures to protect grid operations from Internet borne threats and attacks.

CAPRICA meets these challenges head on and proposes to investigate the phenomena of synchronous islanding via experimentation on the only large scale synchrophasor network available in the UK. Islanding occurs when a geographic portion of the distribution network becomes electrically isolated from the rest of the grid. Reconnecting an island back onto the grid can be very dangerous if the two portions of the network are not properly synchronised. Phase drift is a likely scenario for a self-powered island driven by wind or other renewable generation sources.

The QUB EPIC team have been working on this problem and can demonstrate solutions based on a distributed control architecture using synchrophasor measurement devices. The synchrophasors operate over a public telecoms network which immediately leads to cyber vulnerabilities in the grid control system. A cyber-attack which manipulates synchrophasor measurements could cause untold damage to grid infrastructure and consumer equipment on a national scale.

To counter this risk the EPIC and CSIT research groups have come together to collaboratively investigate the control and cyber security elements of synchronous islanding. By providing an integrated view of grid status and cyber defences we will demonstrate improved operational decision making, improved grid resilience in the face of cyber attack, and lay the groundwork for a new distributed control architecture for the UK smartgrid.


Title: Converged Approach towards Resilient Industrial control systems and Cyber Assurance (CAPRICA)

Start date: 01 October 2014 

End date: 31 December 2016 

Duration: 27 months

Value: £394,306  

Funding body: Co-funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and UK’s National Cyber Security Programme coordinated by The Research Institute in Trustworthy Industrial Control Systems (RITICS).

EPSRC Reference: EP/M002837/1


Further Information

More information on the CAPRICA project can be found on the EPSRC website here.