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Smart Standardization

Coordinated efforts aim toward global principles.

Fortnightly Magazine - November 2010

decades old, and, in fact, the global facility for electricity delivery has been increasing in intelligence for years. The effort has evolved through, first, conceptual requirement assessments and, second, integral catalyst events ( i.e., examples in the United States include the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and the stimulus funding for regional demonstration projects and investigation of standards needs).

Today, we’re entering a new evolutionary stage that will see the development of unprecedented relationships— not just within SDOs and between governments and SDOs, but also across the spectrum of different SDOs. SDOs are honing their relationships with other SDOs and looking at where their activities could be complementary. In the last six months, an infrastructure of sorts has started forming.

For example, more than 70 standard interfaces that engineers will need to connect components across the smart grid already have been identified by the IEEE P2030 Working Group in its work toward a guide. Not all of the standards for which the P2030 identifies need necessarily will be developed by IEEE. Other technologies—automobiles, cyber security, sensors, etc.—and the SDOs serving those industries are becoming integrated under the smart grid’s umbrella.

During this stage, there will be hurdles in bringing activities together. Multiple islands of standards serve no one in the smart grid movement. Relationships will evolve across core SDOs, with government in the background, spurring cooperation and relationships.

Impact for Utilities

What does all of this mean for utilities?

Historically, electric power in the United States has been delivered via three separate grids, operated by roughly 3,000 independent utilities. But these companies no longer will operate as islands in the smart grid. Any given utility will be able to reach out across a global network of more diverse resources for aid in meeting its customers’ needs. The standards-development life cycle is one important way that this unprecedented and valuable opportunity will manifest itself.

Through the work of SDOs, lessons learned in introducing the smart grid in one part of the world are shared with utilities in others. For example, in refining IEEE 1547 (“Physical and electrical interconnections between utility and distributed generation (DG)”), IEEE is leveraging data from from Germany, where voltage and frequency requirements aren’t as tight as they are in the United States.

Similarly, interoperability standards will help utilities in the United States to benefit from technologies advancing elsewhere in the world. Examples include high-voltage transmission systems being built in China and Europe; solar and storage technologies being developed in Japan; and nuclear power designs and equipment from Korea. Additionally, Africa and Europe are emerging as key interconnection test beds, for methods of transporting energy from regenerative sources for remote distribution. As the groundbreaking work that’s taking place in these markets is documented and defined, standards emerge as a valuable technology-transfer mechanism for utilities.

Smart Grid Evolution

The smart grid is poised for a tremendous rollout of new and revised technology standards in the next few years, but this will represent no end of value in and of itself. This rollout will be a continuous and