Many utilities have trimmed their capital spending in the face of economic weakness and regulatory uncertainty. At the same time, strong energy sales have boosted cash flow and profits. Backed by...
The smart grid requires utilities and regulators to assert leadership.
The promise of the smart grid—from interconnecting small-scale renewable resource systems to using smart home technologies to dynamically adjust power consumption—presents a compelling vision. Making this vision a reality, however, requires interoperability. Only through the seamless interconnection of computing, communications, and power systems can users—utilities and end-customers alike—begin to apply smart grid intelligence to real-world applications.
Advances in interoperability also will enable many of the business benefits associated with the smart grid, such as implementing tariffs for users of small-scale renewable systems. Ultimately, these business considerations will spur the growth and expansion of the smart grid, leading to new technologies, new efficiencies and new jobs.
For these reasons, engineers are very enthusiastic about developing universal standards for smart grid interoperability. However, developing such a framework isn’t simply a question of technology. It’s about navigating the legal, regulatory and business factors that influence the implementation of smart grid interconnections.
Where do we stand today in terms of smart grid interoperability? What barriers remain to broad-based implementation of consensus interoperability standards? And how will the self-regulating nature of standards development in this space influence the pace of smart grid evolution?
Interoperability Standards Today
Bits and pieces of the smart grid interoperability puzzle are now emerging, but the final picture is far from being clear. On the positive side of the ledger, the smart grid guidance being developed by the IEEE P2030 working group, “Draft Guide for Smart Grid Interoperability of Energy Technology and Information Technology Operation with the Electric Power System (EPS), and End-Use Applications and Loads,” was submitted for sponsor balloting in September 2010, three months ahead of schedule. If approved, it’s expected to be published by the end of 2011.
More than 400 people participated in the development of the IEEE P2030 guide, including engineers from across the power, communications and information technology (IT) industries. As a result, it represents true consensus, developed with industry buy-in throughout, regarding how interoperability should unfold in the smart grid environment.
IEEE P2030 establishes common smart grid definitions and identifies the necessary elements and functional requirements of the power systems, communication systems, and IT systems in the next-generation grid. Already, the working group has identified the need for more than 70 standard interfaces for interconnecting utilities, customers and components such as small-scale renewable energy generation systems.
However, there is a reason this effort is named “2030.” IEEE P2030 is a guide, not a comprehensive technical standard endorsed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the public utility commissions (PUC). It lays an important foundation for developing consensus interoperability technical standards, but much work remains before real-world interoperability is achieved.
One of the most significant impediments to the development of consensus standards is the lack of industry investment in interoperability research. The biggest recent investment in