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Fostering Smart Grid Evolution

A deliberate approach to infrastructure advancement.

Fortnightly Magazine - December 2011

data and processes of the smart grid system of systems. The task for each utility is to select, implement, and consistently adhere to a unified body of practices that will best promote that particular utility’s smart grid success. Fortunately, there are best practices applicable to each key area of interest and to each form of enterprise. Unfortunately, implementing and managing a unified body of practices isn’t easy, and, when progress becomes difficult, as it certainly will, a utility’s commitment to good practices might waver.

Smart Grid: A Strategic Choice

One way or another, smart grid technologies and processes can and will emerge and evolve at every utility. No matter what, time marches on, stuff happens, and things change. This is as true for utility automation as it is for everything else.

The path of smart grid evolution isn’t a mostly pre-ordained consequence of immutable circumstances. Granted, a utility has little or no control over many of the major factors affecting its path forward. Nevertheless, the utility’s approach to understanding and managing its smart grid evolution is arguably the most significant factor of all. As with most any sort of endeavor, employing a deliberate, organized, integrated, and proactive approach will lead to a path and outcomes that are very different and more desirable when compared to the path and outcomes that will result from a largely incidental, disjointed, and reactive approach.

Even so, there’s no easy path to smart grid evolution. Each approach has its respective costs and challenges that must be understood and weighed against the likely outcomes of using the approach. A managed approach, supported by an enterprise framework, will involve substantial costs and challenges that are generally recognized and well understood early on. As daunting as those costs and challenges might seem at the outset, this should be seen as a good thing. On the other hand, an unmanaged approach that lacks a cohesive enterprise framework may seem less daunting in the beginning but will, in the long run, almost certainly result in a less productive path, characterized by higher costs and more difficult challenges that will often be unanticipated, unidentified, and poorly understood.

Despite the complexities, challenges, and differences among various utilities, the path of managed smart grid evolution is universally feasible. Regardless of its particular circumstances, each utility has the option and the ability to implement an approach and framework that’s most suitable to its needs and goals. It can be done. It’s a strategic choice.