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ITI | CIRI Seminar: Alfonso Valdes, "Power Grid Outages in FEMA Region X: Causes, Impacts, and Mitigation"

Event Type
Information Trust Institute
1030 NCSA and via webcast
Mar 26, 2019   3:00 pm  
Alfonso Valdes, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Andrea Whitesell
Originating Calendar
Information Trust Institute

Please register to recieve webcast dial-in information:


Abstract: Power grids are subject to a number of threats and hazards, including from natural, accidental, and malicious (cyber and physical sabotage) causes. A catastrophic event leading to a protracted, wide-area outage would have significant impacts on inter-dependent infrastructures, vulnerable populations, and economic activity. This presentation summarizes a study done in collaboration with FEMA Region 10, which comprises Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, to prepare a comprehensive grid threats, hazards analysis report. We examine threats that specifically impact the region, as well as threats such as cyberattack that potentially affect all power grids. We also consider measures that can be taken to mitigate the risk and enhance overall system and societal resilience, as well as considerations for recovery. Region 10 is diverse and includes the high-tech corridor between Portland and Seattle, as well as resource-based economies east of the Cascade mountains and in Alaska. The region includes major urban centers as well as rural and tribal regions, whose populations have different vulnerability and potential resilience to the class of events we consider. The region features rugged terrain, major geological hazards from earthquake and volcanic activity, severe winter weather, and wildfire. A protracted power outage quickly impacts other life-critical infrastructures, such as water, communications, and transportation. Challenges to recovery include the difficulty of “black start” operations, as well as inaccessibility to remote facilities and damage to large, difficult-to-replace components such as transmission transformers.


Bio: Alfonso Valdes is a Principal Research Scientist with the Information Trust Institute at the University of Illinois, responsible for a portfolio of diverse research activities, including the Cyber Resilient Energy Delivery Consortium (CREDC); and previously the Trustworthy Cyber Infrastructure for the Power Grid project (TCIPG), and the Illinois Center for a Smarter Electric Grid (ICSEG).


Mr. Valdes is the Illinois lead on industry-academic partnerships studying secure inter-operability of electric microgrid assets as well as high-voltage direct current (HVDC) interconnects, and successfully led a previous partnership developing security solutions in time-critical distributed substation protection systems. His research interest focuses on security and resiliency of infrastructure systems, particularly innovative techniques for intrusion detection, as well as security implications of renewable energy integration and smart grid mechanisms.


Mr. Valdes regularly participates in infrastructure security roadmapping efforts at the invitation of the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).


Mr. Valdes is active in international collaborations, with KTH (Swedish Royal Institute of Technology) through the University of Illinois INSPIRE program, NWO (Netherlands equivalent of the NSF), and the European Union (as external advisor to the SUCCESS and previously CRISALIS project securing critical infrastructures).


Mr. Valdes holds an AB (Mathematics) from the University of California, Berkeley and a MS (Operations Research) from Stanford University.

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