Story by Leah Huff
Photos by Leah Huff and Alex Stephens

On Feb. 23-24, WAPA’s Electric Power Training Center hosted its first-ever hybrid event: the 2022 Cybersecurity in Protective Relaying Workshop. This event was run in conjunction with Idaho National Laboratory, with INL representatives attending the event onsite.

The workshop involved many keynote speakers, such as Administrator and CEO Tracey LeBeau and Vice President of IT – Cybersecurity Kevin Schulz. Speakers from the Department of Energy included Acting Assistant Secretary Patricia A. Hoffman and Senior Advisor for Cybersecurity Cheri Caddy, as well as INL’s Steve Bukowski, Jake Gentle and Craig Rieger.

“The workshop brought IT and operational technology professionals into the same room to get familiar with each other’s terminology, discuss processes and create understanding of information technology/operational technology interfaces for protection and control systems,” said Vice President of Engineering and Design Dan Hamai.

Presentations were delivered in a hybrid format, catering to both in-person attendees and those tuning in via WebEx. The event was mainly attended by utility protection engineers and cybersecurity technicians. Topics focused on cybersecurity as it pertains to the electric utility industry. 

“It was important for attendees to learn existing industry issues and perpetuate the ongoing conversation surrounding cybersecurity in the electric utility landscape,” said Electrical Engineer Joe Liberatore.

“The bottom line was sharing the national labs projects, getting feedback, discussing concerns industry professionals have towards cybersecurity in protective relaying and brainstorming innovative solutions and concepts to improve this environment,” added DOE representative David Howard.

Howard said that the workshop, which provided value to the electric utility industry, was still essentially a pilot to determine whether or not innovative solutions could be captured, designed and demonstrated in this format.

“And it worked,” he said. “The goal now is to develop a partnership with industry professionals that will improve on the communications between these professionals, researchers and the DOE. In this partnership, accelerated research and solutions will be developed in cybersecurity for protective relaying.”

C3D Demo

The workshop included a live-streamed demonstration of the Constrained Cyber Communication Device, or C3D, held in the EPTC’s Miniature Power System and led by Liberatore and Bukowski. C3D is a technology that can block cyberattacks from impacting the nation’s electric power grid.

“The purpose of the demo was to showcase equipment developed from a 2019 collaborative that can restrict engineering access to protective relays,” said Liberatore.

“I feel very good about the C3D demo,” Gentle said. “Steve and Joe were excellent, and the multiple cameras helped a lot. I feel this was the best part of the workshop.”

“The EPTC provided incredible support throughout the process,” added Howard. “The actual demo of C3D was captured professionally and to the level that viewers became engaged.”

Hybrid logistics

Due to COVID-19, there were numerous logistics for EPTC to work out while hosting virtual and in-person attendees. Several months of planning between EPTC Manager Kyle Conroy, Digital Media Services Manager Alex Stephens, Hamai and various members of EPTC and INL staff were required to bring this hybrid event to fruition and ensure that it ran smoothly.

“Providing a hybrid workshop of this nature was new ground for the EPTC,” Conroy said. “As a team, we prepared and tested various alternatives to support this hybrid approach, providing for both in-person and virtual attendees and including breakout sessions. We believe we did a pretty good job ensuring both audio and video communication channels were open to facilitate participation from all.”

The event’s multicamera setup allowed the production to be recorded for future viewing.

“Thanks to teamwork across programs, we were able to prepare for the event, track registrations and successfully accomplish live video streaming of a demonstration being performed using our Miniature Power System,” said Conroy. 

Overall, the event was a success.

“The EPTC provides an excellent platform for future hybrid workshops,” added Howard. “This was the first return to classroom efforts since COVID-19 began. The staff was agile and the demonstration video was excellent throughout.”

“I was very pleased with the workshop,” said Gentle. “As a cohost from INL, we felt very good about the attendance and the hybrid setup. There were some troubles with the audio, but we all worked to make the best of it.”

“From this meeting, previous solutions were brought to fruition and new solutions will result from additional situational discoveries,” said Liberatore.

“It was a learning experience,” Conroy summarizes. “We hope to improve our capabilities to better accommodate this type of hybrid meeting in the future.”

Note: Huff is an administrative analyst who works under the Cherokee Nation Strategic Programs contract.​

EPTC's hybrid event photo

The Electric Power Training Center’s first-ever hybrid event was held in partnership with Idaho National Laboratory. It was mainly attended by utility protection engineers and cybersecurity technicians.

Jake Gentle delivers presentation

Idaho National Laboratory’s Jake Gentle delivers a presentation during the Electric Power Training Center’s return to in-person training. 

Last modified on September 12th, 2023