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ISO/RTO Markets: Building a Common IT Platform

Independent system operators and regional transmission organizations recognize the value in having a common IT architecture.

Fortnightly Magazine - August 2007

and RTOs. “This initiative will help system operators realize long-term cost efficiencies in the design, implementation, and maintenance of the critical software applications that are the foundation of reliable grid operations.”

Toward ISO/RTO IT Standardization

The ISO/RTO Council launched an initiative in 2006 called Enterprise Architecture Standardization (EAS) to address this need. The goal of the EAS is to eliminate the structural differences in key software applications used by ISOs and RTOs by developing a common software-application architecture and creating standard interfaces for integrating specific applications. A task force of highly skilled application architects from IRC member organizations is engaged in this multi-faceted program.

One of the major objectives of the EAS initiative is to achieve interoperability of energy management systems (EMS) and other software applications used by ISOs and RTOs, such as solutions from ABB, Areva, GE/Harris, Siemens, and other vendors. Since applications from these companies eventually will need to comply with the new standards, many of these companies are providing input to the task force to optimize the effectiveness of the architecture and the forthcoming standards.

Because the EAS project has the potential to streamline system- implementation projects, ISO/RTO information technology professionals will have more time and flexibility for other activities such as application testing and training.

First Step: A Shared Vision for Application Architecture

Within the first year of its formation, the EAS task force has accomplished its first goal—developing a Technical Reference Architecture, or a blueprint for how the industry’s software applications should be developed and integrated.

For this, the task force analyzed common ISO and RTO services. For example, system planners evaluate generation interconnection requests and investigate transmission-expansion plans. System operators balance market forces with reliability requirements. Settlement teams collect physical and financial transactions, solve complex calculations, and create bills. IT professionals provide the mechanisms for collecting market data and providing near real-time pricing information. In combination, the applications that support these functions look remarkably similar, but it is only when looking at the details that differences emerge.

To develop the application architecture, the EAS task force reviewed similar initiatives by electric utilities and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) on distribution management. The task force also referenced the IEC’s Common Information Model (CIM), which enables transmission network operators to exchange information about the configuration and status of the transmission network under their control.

In addition, the task force adopted service-oriented architecture (SOA) concepts to describe the technical aspects of the project. SOA, which is commonly used among software-solution providers, is well suited for describing interactions among disparate systems. Many of the system operators already have adopted SOA for their internal development initiatives.

Developing Specific Standards

The next step for the EAS task force is to create a library of standards—one set for each component, all driven by the principles established in the Technical Reference Architecture. Teams of ISO/RTO software architects will work with software-solution providers and other interested industry parties to create a targeted set of standards. The task force will assess each initiative as it is completed and update the base architecture document and any other