Game theory a natural fit for studying behavior in smart grids

We talked with Vincent Poor, the Michael Henry Strater University Professor at Princeton University, member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences, a foreign member of the Royal Society, and a keynote speaker at GameNets 2017, 7th EAI International Conference on Game Theory for Networks (May 9-10, 2017, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA). Read on to find out how game theory and smart grids tie together, and what the concerns are going forward.

Could you summarize the scope of your current work and what you are coming to share with everyone at GameNets 2017? 

My general research interests are the areas of information theory, statistical signal processing, and stochastic analysis, and their applications in several fields, mainly wireless networks, smart grid and social networks.  At GameNets 2017, I plan to focus on my smart grid work, and to talk about a number of different problems in this area in which game theory has a prominent role to play. These include, among others, competitive privacy in which multiple grid entities seek an optimal trade-off between privacy lost and utility gained from information sharing; demand-side management, in which consumers actively manage resources (loads, storage and renewables); and attack construction, in which attackers seek optimal strategies for attacking the grid while defenders seek effective countermeasures.

Regarding smart grids – it is quite intuitive that they manage the electric grid in ways that improve the distribution and consumption of electric power. But when talking about integrating new energy sources into the grid, and renewable sources specifically, how do smart grids help us do that?

Renewable sources are variable and distributed, and so the effective integration of them into the grid requires both greater situational awareness and the ability to adjust loads, storage and generation adaptively. The two-way flow of information and energy conceived for the smart grid enable these capabilities.

How does game theory come into play when developing smart grids?
Game theory plays a natural role in studying behavior within the grid because of the distributed nature of the grid and the fact that it incorporates many independent actors with disparate objectives.  So, it helps in understanding how the grid will operate under different policies and capabilities, which in turn informs how the grid should be developed and operated.

Considering what a vital piece of infrastructure the electric grid is – do you think that it’s a good idea to expose it to data attacks by making it ‘smart’? Certainly, the increased connectedness makes it more vulnerable in that regard. Do the gains outweigh the risks?

Yes, indeed. As with any advanced cyber-enabled system or infrastructure, security and privacy are both significant issues in smart grid. Here, game theory has a role to play in understanding vulnerabilities and in designing mechanisms for protecting the grid, both against attacks by malevolent actors, and against privacy leaks that can occur due to smart metering and similar information gathering processes. I will be discussing some of these issues in my talk.

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GameNets 2017 is still accepting papers! Find out more.