Open, Standard, Direct-Access Communications Interfaces

Deck: 

Why They Matter

Why They Matter

Fortnightly Magazine - April 2017
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Utilities have decades of experience in supervisory control, data acquisition systems and load controls that historically worked with a limited number of devices. Now, because of the ubiquity of wireless communications and the rise of inexpensive communications-enabled sensors, there is impressive growth in the types of devices that could play a part in utility and aggregator programs to provide grid support.

These programs are critical to ensuring safe, reliable, and resilient grid operations. They enable renewable energy, shift and reduce loads, provide reactive power support, and help ride through power fluctuations. But there are stranded investment risks if utilities, manufacturers, and consumers make communications interface choices that are not open, standard, and supportive of direct access.

EPRI is working to limit these risks through our research, education, and standards activities focused on device connectivity that meets these criteria. Let's start with some definitions.

Brian Seal

What is open? When it comes to communications interfaces, the term open means that the technical description to connect to an interface is published and available. If access is gained through royalty payments, memberships, or non-disclosure agreements, it is not considered open.

Openness is a necessary requirement to reduce the risks of stranded investments for all stakeholders. Closed communications interfaces, in contrast, are owned by entities that exercise control over access to specifications.

What is standard? A standard communications interface is owned and managed by a standards development organization recognized by the International Standards Organization. These organizations ensure proper governance, providing fair and open opportunities to all interested stakeholders in the process of maintaining and evolving standards.

Rigorous and transparent processes ensure quality communications interfaces through broad participation, review, public comment, and resolution. The opposite of standard is proprietary, which indicates that a protocol is created by and unique to the products manufactured by any company.

A directly accessible device has an open communications interface that is local to the device. If communication capability is provided through an intermediary, then uses are limited to the intermediary's business interest, which limits customer-centric uses. It also means uses may be lost as business interests change.

Provisioning direct access does not prevent the existence of other interfaces. It simply means they are implemented in a way that doesn't limit options now or in the future.

Open, standard, directly accessible devices offer the maximum flexibility to consumers and other stakeholders involved in energy management services. They encourage innovation and participation from all of them.

Flexibility has multiple benefits: coordination and control of devices is supported for the

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