Understanding Cascading Failures in U.S. Power Grid

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The Problem

Growing energy demands and environmental concerns have significantly increased the interest of academia, industry, and governments in the development of a smart electric power grid. Security is one of the key aspects of power systems. The objective of this research is to advance methods of vulnerability analysis and to develop innovative responses to maintain the integrity of power grids under complex attacks (both cyber attacks and physical failures). This research will contribute to developing robust, secure, and reliable future smart grid systems.


Unlike many of the existing efforts that focuses on abstract topological structure or load-based analysis, this project considers both network topology and intrinsic power flow characteristics to understand system behavior in complex power grid attacks. This includes single-node and multiple-node vulnerability analysis, development of new risk-aware metrics, spatial-temporal attacks with consideration of timing and location, and multifaceted attacks augmented by link failures. Knowledge of power grid system behavior under attack scenarios will allow us to develop new defense strategies.


We study specific attack strategies and analyze their simulation results based on the Western North American power grid benchmark under two representative topology based models. The first model we investigated is the non-recoverable model, in which overloaded nodes fail to operate, and the second network model is recoverable model, in which overloaded nodes are still in function but their performance in power delivery is reduced. In both network models, the proposed attack strategies, which represent novel ways for joint consideration of load and topology, are much more destructive than the traditional load based strategies.


This research is partially supported by NSF Award # 1117314.