MARKET COMMUNICATION WITH BSI AS4 FOR ELECTRICITY AND GAS: COMPLETE OVERHAUL.

THE STORY OF A BEAST – TO BE CONTINUED.

We know it, you know it: The beast BSI AS4 never sleeps! The energy market has seen some fundamental changes in the last year. With resolutions BK6-21-282 of March 31, 2022 and BK7-19-001 of November 22, 2023, the Federal Network Agency [BNetzA] adopted a realignment of market communication for the electricity and gas sectors at the instigation of the Federal Office for Information Security [BSI]. The aim was to ensure the information security and future viability of the energy market. At the heart of these resolutions are the introduction of AS4 as a communication protocol and the use of new certificates from the smart meter PKI.

The transition of market communication in electricity, which took place on October 1, 2023, showed that implementing the new requirements is not as easy as some had thought. The opposite is true, as they are complex, challenging and require a lot of lead time to ensure a smooth changeover. In the electricity sector, we are now moving straight on to schedule management, and market communication managers in the gas sector are now also being asked to rise to the challenge of BSI AS4 so that they can go live as prescribed on October 1, 2024.

One of the obstacles in the implementation of BSI AS4 has proven to be the procurement of certificates.

WHAT’S THIS ABOUT AGAIN? BSI AS4 AT A GLANCE.

BSI AS4 is a complex interplay of regulatory requirements and individual, company-specific aspects. At its heart is the “Applicability Statement 4” [AS4], which is the basis of how the data exchange between sender and recipient must take place – including TLS for transport security. Measures such as encryption, integrity protection and authentication are taken.

In addition to new technologies, both service processes and the operating environment also need to be completely redesigned, and that takes time.

MANY CHANGES, HIGHER EFFORTS.

The changes affect, among other things:

  • the use of the AS4 protocol. Since each market partner in the respective role must provide its own AS4 endpoint, including DNS name, and establish a 1:1 connection with its market partners in the respective role, the number of connections to be managed increases many times over.
  • the certificates, which may only be issued by a CA accredited by the BSI and must contain the market partner code for each market role. This also increases the number of certificates that need to be managed, as three certificates are required for each market partner ID [for transport encryption, content encryption and the signature].
  • the storage of certificates, which will have to take place in security modules. These should be operated with high availability in order to ensure a highly available application overall.
  • the distribution of certificates and communication information, which takes place via various interfaces of the sub CAs.
  • the elimination of IP based firewalls, which must be replaced by content-based security procedures.

At the organizational level, the AS4 implementation therefore leads to significantly higher efforts – from setting up communication with market partners to managing certificates, to troubleshooting.

WHAT’S NEXT? ALL DEADLINES AT A GLANCE.

Not all companies in the energy sector are being asked to implement this realignment at the same time – but time is short for all of them. Not so easy to stay on top of things?

BSI AS4 FOR THE ELECTRICITY SECTOR.

  • 07/01/2024 | Start of test phase | schedule management
  • 10/01/2024 | Start of production operation | schedule management
  • 12/01/2024 | End of fall-back option e-mail + AS2 | schedule management
  • tbd | Redispatch

👑 Special treatment for schedule management: While the processes of market communication are relatively uncritical in terms of time, schedule management requires near-real-time communication, as transmission system operators can only keep the electricity grid stable on the basis of short-term information. This makes the transition to BSI AS4 particularly challenging for market players.

☝️ In keeping with the spirit of constant change, the transition for redispatch is also expected in the coming months.

Looking at the deadlines for schedule management, it becomes clear: time is running!

BSI AS4 FOR THE GAS SECTOR.

  • asap | Our recommendation: Start of test phase | market communication gas
  • 10/01/2024 | Start of production operation | market communication gas
  • 04/01/2025 | End of fall-back optione-mail + AS2 | market communication gas | network operators
  • 04/01/2026 | End of fall-back option e-mail + AS2 | market communication gas | all other roles
Gas companies are now also required to convert their market communication to the AS4 protocol in accordance with BSI specifications.

IT DOESN’T WORK WITHOUT A LEAD TIME!

Our experience over the past year clearly shows that you should allow for a test phase of six to eight months before you go live. In addition to new technologies, your service processes and the operating environment also need to be completely redesigned. Obtaining certificates, for example, has proven to be an obstacle in recent months.

SIMPLE IMPLEMENTATION OF BSI AS4 WITH VICOS.

How nice would it be if someone took care of all of this for you? We offer you VICOS [Virtimo Communication Service] for the reliable implementation of current and future BSI requirements. As a cloud-based full service, this includes the infrastructure as well as operation and application. We take on all obligations for you that arise in the context of market communication. In addition to providing certificates and AS4 endpoints, this also includes reliable application operation and troubleshooting partner problems.

The VICOS cloud platform is a highly flexible solution for implementing, monitoring and controlling market communication. It not only fulfills the content requirements with regard to the data formats to be used in the energy market, but also numerous technical specifications with regard to the protocols to be used as well as security requirements.

VICOS means maximum relief – both during the update to new legal requirements such as BSI AS4 and in your day-to-day business.

ONE SERVICE, MANY FEATURES.

As part of the technological realignment, we have adapted VICOS to the complex requirements of the legislator. The basic architecture of VICOS is designed for highly available and scalable operation of the core components. VICOS provides the following functions on this basis:

  • Central management of the master data of all market partners and communication connections
  • Monitoring and changing the certificates of market partners
  • Redundant operation of the necessary security modules for storing the certificates
  • Sending and receiving market messages via BSI AS4 including complete mapping of current legal requirements
  • Technical monitoring, alerting and troubleshooting [proactive analysis and processing of erroneous communication processes and communication with partners to rectify errors]
  • Proactive further development and provision of updates to the application
  • Provision of monitoring information on message flows and connectivity with partners for professional monitoring by service users

Whether integrated with on-premise or cloud systems – you can count on a high degree of automation and maximum flexibility.

VICOS is the all-round carefree service for handling market communication.

LEADING SERVICE FOR MARKET COMMUNICATION.

VICOS has already established itself as the leading shared service for handling market communication in accordance with BSI AS4. More than 150 clients are already productive on VICOS, including DB Energie, Open Grid Europe, be.storaged and Salzburg AG, to name just a few.

With plenty of be[a]st practices in tow, we are now starting the next stages! 💪

Do you have any questions?
I am here for you.

Linda Naujokat

Sales
Virtimo AG