Utilities bank on satellite IoT to secure future of national power grids

Global research reveals three-quarters of electrical utilities leaders believe satellite connectivity and technology partnerships will help mitigate emerging industry threats over next five years

The power of the internet of things (IoT) has been shown in research from global communications company Viasat. While revealing “an alarming” number of emerging threats to national grid stability over the next five years, the firm said it has also found that just over three-quarters of senior electrical utilities industry professionals are confident that satellite-enabled IoT solutions will play a key role in improving network reliability in the face of these risks.

The crucial role of satellite connectivity in safeguarding national electrical utilities infrastructure report – commissioned by Viasat and conducted by Censuswide – is part of Viasat’s critical national infrastructure series, based on a survey taking place between March and April 2023 of more than 125 business owners, C-suite executives and senior management professionals with decisio- making power working in the electrical utilities industry.

They represent a range of business sizes, from £100m-£500m, £500m-£999m, £1bn-£1.99bn, £2-4.99bn and £5bn or more in turnover across all major continents including Europe, North America, South America, Africa and Asia, and work under many different national and regional regulatory frameworks.

As such, Viasat said it was confident that the results it gained were representative of a broad range of businesses at various stages of their industrial IoT and satellite IoT adoption journeys.

The results identified wide-ranging industry threats, with managing the adverse effects of climate change or natural disasters (62%) emerging as the highest risk, deemed even more important by C-suite executives (66%). Potential financial risks from not meeting new environmental-focused regulations (58%) was the second highest threat, followed by cyber security concerns (53%). The latter included state-sponsored attacks or cyber criminals seeking to exploit vulnerabilities.

Managing fluctuating supply and demand patterns while transitioning to more renewable energy sources (43%) was considered a key risk, while ageing infrastructure (42%) at a time when surging consumer demand is putting power grids under increased pressure was also seen as important.

Satellite-enabled IoT emerged as the key to navigating power grid risks. In addition to the aforementioned 76% optimistic about the ability of satcom to play a crucial role in improving infrastructure reliability, 75% of those surveyed also thought satellite IoT was already helping to mitigate some of the biggest risks facing the industry. Seven in 10 respondents felt satellite-enabled IoT was helping to mitigate climate change and natural disaster-related threats through sustainability-focused innovations, such as environmental monitoring, early warning systems, and remote asset management in regions prone to climate-related risks. 

Almost four in five also felt that satellite communications were helping address risks associated with cyber threats through advanced encryption and authentication mechanisms, and secure traffic routing systems. Over half (57%) expect satellite IoT solutions to improve overall business performance through effective cost reduction and risk mitigation via remote monitoring and controlling of assets, highlighting the broader expected positive impact of such technologies over the years to come.

“As modern consumers and businesses place unprecedented levels of demand on electrical power networks, their status as critical elements of national infrastructure is increasingly clear. However, with the rise of threats from climate change, bad actors and ageing infrastructure, managing the supply and distribution of electricity has never been so complex,” said Viasat chief commercial and digital officer Jat Brainch.

“The good news is that satellite-enabled internet of things technologies offer a proven, reliable way to tackle these risks head-on, and the industry is becoming increasingly open to leveraging them to protect and maintain their networks going forward.”

Viasat said that it expects IoT technologies to become integral to the successful functioning of electrical grids in the next five years, as well as playing a central role in the broader transition to renewable energy sources worldwide. It also believes that satellite IoT will also be key to driving operational efficiencies, improving profitability and strengthening sustainable outcomes for critical national infrastructure as a whole.

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