Fig. 1: Research team for DarkNet project – Distributed Ledger Technology task in the Advanced Protection Lab (Photo by Dr. Emilio Piesciorovsky, Lab Manager of Advanced Protection Lab, Oak Ridge National Laboratory)
Fig. 2: Electrical substation grid test bed with cyber grid guard system (Photo by Dr. Emilio Piesciorovsky, Lab Manager of Advanced Protection Lab, Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

The integration of renewable energy sources into power systems is gaining momentum, which is fueled by technological breakthroughs and the quest for sustainable, cost-efficient energy. With the advent of intelligent electronic devices (IEDs) such as power meters and protective relays, electrical utilities are navigating a new era of distributed energy resources (DERs) and enhanced grid communication.

This shift—alongside advancements of the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, blockchain, and big data—is leading to a modernization of the power grid and the creation of smart cities. Although blockchain’s initial utility focus in the energy sector was on trading, its potential to secure and streamline grid operations is emerging. This development indicates a dynamic milestone of grid management in which the integrity and confidentiality of data play pivotal roles in protecting against cyber threats and ensuring seamless communication. Moreover, this advancement opens the door to real-time peer-to-peer energy trading, rejuvenating the energy market with blockchain’s innovative solutions.

Dr. Emilio Piesciorovsky of the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) established this research team with ORNL’s Gary Hahn, Raymond Borges Hink, and Dr. Aaron Werth, as well as with Annabelle Lee from Nevermore Security. They launched a research initiative to leverage distributed ledger technology (DLT), specifically blockchain, to enhance the resilience and operational efficiency of electrical grids. Published in the prestigious journal Energy Reports, the team’s study introduces blockchain technology for precise electrical fault detection, comprehensive power quality monitoring, and effective management of DERs, including wind turbine farms. Furthermore, their approach not only ensures secure data communication within the grid but also enables the seamless integration of customer-owned DERs, marking a significant step toward the evolution of power systems congruent with renewable energy advancements.

Dr. Piesciorovsky and his colleagues used a real-time simulator to mimic an electrical substation grid, incorporating DERs and IEDs to test the efficacy of the blockchain-based Cyber Grid Guard (CGG) system. The tests, which are designed to simulate a range of scenarios from electrical fault detection to DER integration, employed simulated and real equipment to validate the applicability of blockchain technology in practical settings. Dr. Piesciorovsky explains, “The multipurpose electrical substation grid test bed with DLT was pivotal in conducting electrical fault detection, power quality monitoring, DER use cases, and cyber event scenarios within the designated test area.”

The CGG system’s architecture, detailed through event and algorithm flow diagrams, illustrates the system’s capacity to monitor and manage electrical faults and power quality effectively. Dr. Piesciorovsky notes, “Implementing the event flow diagram in the test bed and defining algorithm flow diagrams for each power system application demonstrated the CGG system’s robustness.” The distributed ledger technology at the heart of the system guarantees data accuracy and security by distributing the ledger across multiple connected devices within the network. Dr. Piesciorovsky highlights the critical nature of this technology: “The integrity and confidentiality of data from IEDs such as power meters and protective relays are essential. By enhancing the security of data sharing, blockchain technology could significantly improve the resilience of microgrids.”

The outcomes of this study underscore the successful application of blockchain technology for protection control and monitoring within the electrical grid, establishing a new benchmark for the integration of DLT in grid management. Regarding blockchain’s potential for transformative power system management and security, Dr. Piesciorovsky notes, “These results validate the CGG system’s capability to effectively assess protection control and monitoring applications using DLT.” This groundbreaking research charts a new course for the application of blockchain technology in electrical grid management, emphasizing its capacity to boost security, operational efficiency, and the integration of renewable energy sources. As the grid continues to decentralize, such technological advancements become crucial to ensuring the reliability and sustainability of future energy infrastructure.


Emilio C. Piesciorovsky, Gary Hahn, Raymond Borges Hink, Aaron Werth, Annabelle Lee, Electrical substation grid testbed for DLT applications of electrical fault detection, power quality monitoring, DERs use cases and cyber-events, Energy Reports, 2023.


This manuscript has been authored by UT-Battelle, LLC, under contract DE- AC05-00OR22725 with the US Department of Energy (DOE). The US government retains and the publisher, by accepting the article for publication, acknowledges that the US government retains a nonexclusive, paid-up, irrevocable, worldwide license to publish or reproduce the published form of this manuscript, or allow others to do so, for US government purposes. DOE will provide public access to these results of federally sponsored research in accordance with the DOE Public Access Plan (

Authors Note


Emilio C. Piesciorovsky graduated with a BS in electrical engineering from the National Technological University, Argentina (1995). He received his MS in marketing international from La Plata National University, Argentina (2001). He worked as an engineer for Pirelli Power Cables and Systems, SDMO Industries, ABB, and Casco Systems. He completed his MS (2009) and PhD (2015) in electrical engineering from Kansas State University. Then, he worked as a postdoc at Tennessee Technological University and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Currently, he is a professional technical staff member and lab space manager in the power system protection area at ORNL. He is the author/coauthor of more than 40 publications and is an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers senior member.

Raymond Borges Hink is a cybersecurity research scientist at ORNL and serves as the co-principal investigator for several efforts in the areas of cybersecurity for cyber-physical systems, developing analytics for distributed systems, and detection algorithms for anomalies in the electric energy grid. As co-principal investigator, he has developed proposals that received more than $6 million in funding. Via these projects, Raymond collaborates with scientists, engineers, and technicians from Duke University; Electric Power Board of Chattanooga, Tennessee; the DOE’s Office of Electricity; and the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate. He has authored several publications in these fields, and he holds multiple IT and security certifications from Microsoft and CompTIA.

Aaron W. Werth is a researcher at ORNL focusing on cybersecurity for critical infrastructure, including power grids. He received his PhD in computer engineering at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, where he developed test beds involving supervisory control and data acquisition systems and experimental intrusion prevention systems. He received the CyberCorps Scholarship for Service and completed internships at Tennessee Valley Authority and Sandia National Laboratories. He received a MS in electrical engineering, with a focus in cyber-physical systems, from Vanderbilt University and a BS in electrical engineering from the University of Alabama, Huntsville.

Gary Hahn is a research software engineer in the Grid Communications and Security Group at ORNL. His background and research interests include data engineering, Industrial Internet of Things, supervisory control and data acquisition, and embedded software. He has a BS in computer science from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He was part of a team that won an R&D 100 Award in 2019.

Annabelle Lee is the founder and chief cybersecurity specialist of Nevermore Security. Annabelle’s technical experience comprises more than 40 years of IT system design and implementation and more than 25 years of cybersecurity design, specification development, and testing. Over the past 15 years, she has focused on cybersecurity for the energy sector. Over her career, she has authored or coauthored many documents on cybersecurity, cryptography, and testing. She began her career in private industry, concentrating on IT systems specifications, software testing, and quality assurance.