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Smart Standardization

Coordinated efforts aim toward global principles.

Fortnightly Magazine - November 2010

One of the smart grid’s key transformations is the unification of the historically fragmented utility industry, and the future integration with other industries that will partner with the utility industry in the deployment of the smart grid over the next decade. Utilities around the globe will be more closely aligned with, and reliant on, one another, and standards are transitioning to support that fundamental shift within this industry environment.

What’s the state of the smart grid standards effort? Some standards in place today will undergird the smart grid’s progress. Some are in need of refinement. In other areas, gaps are revealing themselves where altogether new standards will need to be developed. A coordinated, sweeping standards effort is gathering across industry and national boundaries, and it will lead to more useful and cost-effective technologies—and, ultimately, a more intelligent and reliable system of electricity delivery.

Importance of Standards

Standards are critical to realizing the smart grid vision—a next-generation, managed infrastructure that powers daily life in a cleaner, more reliable and more affordable way.

Utilities want to cost-efficiently keep the power continuously flowing to their end users. Consumers and enterprises want no outages and lower costs. Suppliers want a profitable business model for interoperable products and services. Governments want to ensure that their constituencies enjoy services and economic opportunities, while better managing the environmental impact of energy production and usage. And, ultimately, this weave of social, political, business and technological drivers points clearly to the necessity of widely adopted smart grid standards.

Hundreds of standards are needed, spanning power generation, transmission, distribution and load serving, along with communications and information technology (IT) services and end use. How will smart meters talk to plug-in vehicles? How will a utility interface with a multi-vendor array of small-scale renewable generation technologies that might be deployed across its user base? How could generation and distribution equipment that’s produced for utilities worldwide seamlessly account for important regional variations in voltage-level regulations, for example? How will these enhanced service grids be managed and protected? How will global regional grids be integrated? How will the smart grid accommodate the power industry’s long-term structure of capital investment, so utilities know the hardware and software they buy today won’t be obsolete in six to 10 years as innovations roll out? These are the types of questions being contemplated today in standards-development organizations (SDOs) around the globe.

A great deal of standards work already has taken place around the smart grid. In the case of IEEE, for example, about 100 standards have been identified as foundational to the effort. IEEE is moving quickly to update, revise and ensure that the standards are relevant in relation to the new demands made by the smart grid.

A key aspect of the value delivered by this initial standards work has been bringing together smart grid stakeholders who historically haven’t worked together.

Crossing Boundaries

The smart grid constitutes a unique and exciting challenge with respect

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