MOD Rolls Out Smart Meters Despite Security Concerns

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Defence sites across the UK will be fitted with energy efficiency monitoring technology despite security concerns raised by experts about the technology

The organisation which manages many Ministry of Defence facilities has hired IT services company Logica to install data monitoring technology in its buildings and help drive down the £300m it spends on energy every year.

In a statement released this week, the MOD said that is installing a system based on Logica’s Sustainability Indicator Reporting Application (SIRA) which is able to capture data from smart meters which are already being installed in defence facilities. The reporting tool will be used to identify buildings or sites which appear to be using excessive amounts of energy, the MOD said. “The provision of automated energy data will help us to act on excessive consumption, and ultimately to reduce spending on energy bills,” said vice admiral Tim Laurence, the chief executive of Defence Estates.

The Logica system will link gas and electricity smart meters and should be operational by April 2010. The MOD also plans to extend the system to monitor data on oil and liquid petroleum gas consumption.

But although it may help cut energy usage and carbon emissions, the decision to install smart metering technology at MOD sites could raise security concerns. Earlier this week, HP launched a new audit service for smart grid technology, in response to a series of successful hacking attempts against energy meters and other infrastructure. “There is a lot of concern about the security in this field,” said Ian Mitton, world wide director of utilities at HP.

In March this year, researchers from US security consultancy IOActive created a worm that could spread from one smart metering device to another thanks to the wireless technology that is used to connect them.

Christian Feisst, director, Smart Grids, Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group told eWeek Europe UK earlier this month that making energy grids “smarter” comes with inherent security risks. “As soon as a system is digitalised, there is always the question of security…it is one of the most important aspects and before you start to roll out smart grid technology, you definitely have to have a security concept in place,” he said.

Defence Estates recently launched a programme to install energy and gas meters across its estate, focusing initially on the 220 most energy-consuming sites, which are responsible for 76 per cent of the MOD’s energy consumption. “In order to identify the opportunities for improved energy efficiency across the estate we must better understand where we are using our energy and why. We therefore need better data because if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it,” said vice admiral Laurence in a speech earlier this year.

The MOD smart meter roll-out includes a recent pilot across 10 naval sites. The MOD said that energy consumption across all the sites has been reduced by 10 per cent.

The MOD has set targets to reduce its carbon emissions by 12.5 percent by 2012 and 30 percent by 2020, relative to 1999/2000 baseline. The MOD is one of the largest UK landowners in the UK and spends around £1bn per year on its estate which covers around 240,000 hectares and 4000 sites.

Vice admiral Laurence added that the MOD is also exploring the potential of renewable energy as part of its carbon reduction drive. “There is little doubt that the price of traditional fossil fuel energy will continue to rise, and therefore we must reduce our consumption as well as investigate alternative sources of energy to help minimise the impact of these rising prices,” he said.

Logica announced earlier this year that it has deployed its SIRA Tool internally to help drive down costs. “SIRA will build on current cost savings of approximately £3.6 million over two years in energy costs and £7 million in travel costs,” the company said in a statement.

In 2008, former Logica chief executive Martin Read was hired as a government adviser to oversee IT and back-office systems elements of the Treasury’s Operational Efficiency Programme. Read pushed his retirement from Logica forward in May 2007 amid financial difficulties at the firm.

Logica and the MOD were approached for comment but did not reply in time of writing.