Despite challenges, grid modernization is paying off for customers. Smart grid progress depends on clarifying the vision and communicating value.
Smart Grid Consensus
Workable standards require utility input.
A movement has unified across the communications, IT and power industries to work out the best answers to such questions, and certainly the distinct voices of various utilities need to be heard in this process. After all, the smart grid’s planners are serving utilities and their customers.
What impact will the smart-grid’s development have on utility customers? Among the most striking changes figure to be the tighter coupling of power generation with power usage and the wider-scale appearance of distributed generation, and this means that consumers will have the potential to partner in energy consumption management and storage.
Historically, there has been no effective means to determine when customers would need power, how much they would need and for how long. Moving forward, the smart grid would enable utilities to better understand and respond to their customers’ usage patterns. This should significantly enhance the efficiency of utility operations, as the load required by power users could be managed more strategically over the course of a day and across energy sources.
Similarly, while there have been some limited instances of customers providing power back to their utilities, the concepts of net metering and distributed generation are expected to expand on a wide scale across both corporate and residential customers in the smart grid. For this to occur, communications and control in the areas of billing and measurement for sub-metering must be improved and standardized. This information must be traded in a standardized way in order for a utility to cost-effectively engage with the full gamut of its customer base.
Other consumer questions, particularly around where the boundaries of communications will extend, are highly controversial. For example, will the smart grid reach into homes and entail control of consumer appliances? Utility insight into these and other implications for consumers will prove invaluable as the smart grid progresses.
Landscape of Stakeholders
A tremendous array of stakeholders will make valuable contributions in the smart-grid’s rollout. Among this landscape of stakeholders, utilities will recognize a dividing line between participants who are creating standards and those that are implementing them. On one side of that point of demarcation, organizations such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and state and regional public utility commissions will influence how the smart grid employs various technologies.
In accordance with terms of the U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, NIST is crafting a standards roadmap and conformance testing and certification framework for the smart grid. As part of this, NIST is working to identify today’s consensus standards around which smart-grid development can advance. NIST already has identified several standards to help industry planning to progress, such as: IEEE C37.118 [phasor measurement unit (PMU) communications]; IEEE 1547 [physical and electrical interconnections between utility and distributed generation (DG)]; and IEEE 1686-2007 [security for intelligent electronic devices (IEDs)].
FERC, meanwhile, is responsible for mandating the standards and ensuring reliability and security for the nation’s power system across states. Within state and regional jurisdictions, then, this regulatory authority falls to disparate public