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Smart Grid Consensus

Workable standards require utility input.

Fortnightly Magazine - February 2010

utility commissions. One of the prerequisites of smart-grid success figures to be unification of the currently fragmented standards landscape across the nation’s electricity delivery infrastructure.

In addition to NIST, FERC and the public utility commissions, other regulators and testing laboratories will contribute to smart-grid implementation. The communications, IT and power industries already have come together to consider exactly what technologies are necessary, how they will be interconnected and what standards refinement or creation will be required to accelerate deployment. This work has been going on, in fact, for nearly a year, and the first fruits of the labor soon will be forthcoming.

Toward Standards

The consensus work taking place within the unified community of communications, IT and power engineers today will fuel the go-to-market strategies of technology manufacturers and the utilities who operate the smart grid tomorrow.

The IEEE Standards Association has been involved in smart-grid development requirements co-incident with the creation and passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act . The IEEE P2030 Work Group launched in March 2009 to unite the communications, IT and power industries in defining terms, necessary elements and functional requirements toward crafting smart-grid standards. The work continues in 2010.

Task forces have formed within the P2030 around each of the three industries, but their efforts dovetail in the development of a consensus design guide. For example, the power task force is developing a matrix of the smart-grid’s generation and applications areas to illuminate where interfaces will be necessary for exchange of information; the communications and IT task forces are using that framework of elements to determine how to enable two-way communications and control. Ultimately, the guide is intended to serve as “a knowledge base addressing terminology, characteristics, functional performance and evaluation criteria, and the application of engineering principles for smart-grid interoperability of the electric power system with end-use applications and loads.” It’s scheduled to be available in draft form for balloting in March 2011, and then to evolve as appropriate across the smart-grid’s long-term rollout.

In large part, the technologies that will comprise the smart grid exist today. But standardized methods remain undeveloped for communications and control across those technologies in the interstate smart grid. The consensus design guide being developed by the communications, IT and power communities through the IEEE P2030 Work Group is critical because it will enable the refinement or creation of that broad reach of standards, spanning:

• Demand response;
• Wide-area situational awareness;
• Storage;
• Distribution;
• Metering infrastructure;
• Renewable energy integration;
• Cyber security;
• Data networking;
• Information and communications modeling;
• New-scenario management ( e.g., supporting electric vehicles); and
• Sensor and other device management.

A more robust family of widely embraced standards is necessary for the seamless deployment, integration and operation of energy, information and communications technologies across the smart grid. That also would reduce the technical barriers to futuristic manufacturing of plug-and-play equipment for the smart grid.

Due process, openness, consensus and transparency must characterize the path from organizing around an idea to ratifying a standard, and further to include post-publication activities.