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NISKAYUNA — General Electric researchers in Niskayuna are working to secure increasingly numerous and sophisticated energy management systems from attacks and failures.

The company this week announced it and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have received a three-year, $4.1 million contract from the U.S. Department of Energy for the project. 

The project will pair GE Research’s expertise in cyber-physical security with PNNL’s expertise in modeling and simulation of building systems. 

The Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy is seeking to safeguard commercial building systems. The automated protection solution it seeks would detect and isolate a cyberattack or system fault and enable building systems to reliably operate through it with a mixture of artificial intelligence, reinforcement learning and advanced controls. It would be able to differentiate regular system faults from cyberattacks and take appropriate action.

“With more than 75 percent of electricity consumption in the U.S. coming from buildings, the digitization and automation of building control systems offers tremendous opportunities to create a more sustainable energy footprint,” project leader Mustafa Dokucu, a senior engineer in the Controls and Optimization Group at GE Research, said in a news release. “But with greater sustainability must follow higher degrees of security to safeguard building energy management systems from increasing cyber threats. That’s what we’re aiming to address through this project.”

Advanced digital controls and sensing technologies are a central feature of green buildings and can achieve energy savings of up to 20 percent through more efficient use of lighting, climate control and appliances, keying them for example to the number of people present.

Dokucu, a Latham resident, said one goal is to enable the system to differentiate between internal failures and external attacks. “It can be difficult to discern, unless you can pinpoint the source of a system fault,” he said. “This is what we’re designing our automated cyber solution to be able to do.” 

GE Research has already made significant advances in this type of protection at the other end of the grid, at power plants, where its Digital Ghost platform can rapidly identify and mitigate threats or faults. It plans to apply the same features in this new effort to protect commercial building systems.

The goal for GE and PNNL is 99 percent accuracy.





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