The Australian government is addressing concerns about the security of its growing solar market, as Chinese state-sponsored hackers are suspected of targeting internet-connected solar inverters, posing a potential risk of blackouts. The vulnerabilities of rooftop inverters, which convert solar energy into usable electricity for homes and businesses, have raised cybersecurity concerns among government and private sector researchers.
With China dominating the Australian solar inverter market, supplying 58% of these critical components, lawmakers are worried about the country’s dependence on Chinese manufacturers. As part of its goal to convert 82% of its power to renewable sources by 2028, Australia is installing more than 22,000 500-watt solar panels daily.
Furthermore, the Australian government is collaborating with Standards Australia to establish security standards for rooftop solar inverters, following the assessment of cybersecurity risks associated with these systems. The development of these standards aims to ensure the cyber resilience of the country’s rapidly growing solar energy sector, given the interdependence of the electric grid and distributed energy resources (DERs).
Additionally, these DERs could serve as attack vectors for the distribution grid if vulnerabilities are not addressed, as highlighted by a U.S. government report. In light of the concerns surrounding the security of devices made in China, particularly smart inverters, Australian officials are evaluating potential risks associated with their use, and Senator James Paterson has expressed fears that these Chinese manufacturers could be compelled to spy on or sabotage the systems.
To address these concerns, the Australian government is in early-stage discussions with the Australian Energy Market Operator to develop a technical solution that can restore functionality and stability to the grid in the event of a successful cyberattack on rooftop inverters. This proactive approach reflects the government’s commitment to enhancing the security of its critical infrastructure, particularly in the context of a growing and interconnected solar energy market.