Public Utilities Reports

PUR Guide 2012 Fully Updated Version

Available NOW!
PUR Guide

This comprehensive self-study certification course is designed to teach the novice or pro everything they need to understand and succeed in every phase of the public utilities business.

Order Now

Highlighting Interoperability

A decision-maker’s checklist provide a starting point—but not an end-point.

Fortnightly Magazine - June 2007

use resources more efficiently, and create more value for their users. Such systems consistently prove that interoperability and standards enhance users’ choices, because those requirements create a framework within which vendors and competitors can innovate—as long as the finished products perform the needed functions and exchange data with other, related products.

Once interoperability has been established and implemented, users can choose between features and vendors rather than technologies because they know the devices will communicate and work together in predictable ways. Such devices often can be updated and upgraded (as through remote reprogramming of firmware and software to increase functionality or modify instructions) without becoming obsolete.

Group of Three

There are three types of interoperability. Technical interoperability covers the physical and communications connections between and among devices or systems. Informational interoperability covers the content, semantics, and format for data or instructions flows. Organizational interoperability covers the relationships between organizations and individuals and their parts of the system, including business relationships and legal relationships. All three types must be addressed to achieve effective interoperability in any system.

Creation of an interoperability platform for the grid will liberate and enable innovations and services that leverage today’s electric system and add value while driving down the costs of electricity use in the decades ahead.

What are some of the forms that interoperability could take in the electric power value chain? What are the benefits of interoperability, and the costs of achieving it? This article answers those questions, and presents a decision-maker’s interoperability checklist devised to help regulatory and utility managers incorporate interoperability concepts into their evaluations of utility capital and operations projects.

Interoperability and The Electric System

What can interoperability do for the electric system? Advanced communication and information technology can connect together the whole power system, better integrating the parties in the network and improving energy flows. These richer information connections will produce a more efficient, resilient, and reliable grid, and more robust competitive markets, enabled in part by better interaction and collaboration between power users and power suppliers.

Interoperability will improve grid reliability by collecting more useful information and transferring it to operators and equipment to improve and protect grid operations. Interoperability and better data flows between transmission and generation devices—complemented by better monitoring, communications and control systems, and power management devices—can provide timely, automatic, and seamless ways to operate the grid to deliver more energy more efficiently under both normal and adverse conditions. This capability will reduce the need for drastic actions like involuntary load shedding and will lower the risk of blackouts. It also will enable more surgical load shedding of lower-value uses in response to price signals during adverse conditions.

Within the power system, achieving and exploiting the benefits of interoperability from the end-user to the power plant to the grid operator’s control room will require collecting and using information better, expanding interconnectivity (the flow of information and instructions between participants and their devices), and more automation (building more capability for electronic analysis, operations, and control into the transmission and distribution system). The greatest impact from interoperability will occur when