Global Interest in the smart grid interconnection standards road map
After decades of what sometimes felt like progress at a crawl’s pace, the U.S. is now in full sprint into our smart grid future. Government-boosted demonstration projects around the country are establishing best practices standards for how to make the nation’s electricity delivery facility more flexible, efficient and reliable. Communications, IT and power engineers are working within and across their technical disciplines to define the standards that will spur additional development and deployment.
While the U.S. has been a key driver in creating a standards road map, the smart grid movement is not confined within our borders. Governments, utilities and industry across the planet are at varying speeds undergoing the same fundamental and historic shifts — toward two-way power and communications flow, more tightly coupled demand and generation, and greater consumer empowerment..
This has turned the U.S.-based effort to develop a standards road map for smart grid interconnection into a global phenomenon. Interconnectivity and integration of various energy sources are a widely shared focal point — for companies that are crafting go-to-market strategies for plug-and-play systems that enable the smart grid and for utilities and governments that are trying to bring its benefits to their customers and constituents.
Standards bringing together disparate factions
The vast majority of enabling technologies that will participate in the smart grid already exist; however, how to link the legacy and next-generation systems from utilities to their users is still being defined in consensus standards. Standards are the only way that we can bring together the various, disparate technologies that will come together through the smart grid. In order to make these truly interoperable leading to the highest level of efficiency, there must be a set of agreed-upon standards in place.
In the U.S., a shortage of these interconnection standards has been identified as one of the key barriers to rollout of a next-generation, interstate smart grid. While the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission defines requirements for reliability and security of power delivery nationally, regulatory authority at the distribution and retail levels of electric delivery is fragmented among the state public utility commissions. Additional standards are needed in cybersecurity, data networking, demand response, distribution, electric-vehicle support, information modeling, metering infrastructure, renewables integration, sensor networking, storage and wide-area situational awareness, among other areas.
In other countries around the world, such interconnection standards do not exist at all. As a result, the globe is all waiting in anticipation to see how the U.S. standards effort progresses.
Different geographies, different smart grid needs
Every country throughout the world has different energy needs as well as varying types and accessibility of energy resources. In Northern Africa, where the huge desert landscape is recognized as an asset for potentially deploying windmills and solar panels, industrial and government leaders are seeking insight into how to ship power across national boundaries and interconnect with other grids. The European Union, which has set forth a goal of deploying smart meters to over 80% of power users by 2020, is organizing to better understand the diverse, country-specific smart grid requirements across its membership. Asia-based utilities are very interested in pursuing smart grid technology and learning how to integrate their array of available resources.
The key drivers of developing the smart grid vary from country to country, as well. In some developing areas of the world, the smart grid will bring power to some consumers for the first time. In other nations, the motivation is improved reliability and efficiency. Systems of government, public-private relationships and cultural norms also differentiate the markets. But, clearly, smart grid interest is internationally shared.
Collaboration without borders
Given the extraordinary spectrum of technologies that the smart grid will embrace, a wide variety of manufacturers see the opportunity to participate. But to prepare for what could be a monumental revenue opportunity, they need a collaborative environment in which they can explore beyond the bounds of their own technology thresholds and work with one another (for meter manufacturers to engage with makers of appliances, for example). The interconnection standards effort provides just such an environment.
IEEE launched its P2030 Work Group in March 2009 to bring together communications, IT and power engineers in developing an interface document and knowledge base addressing interoperability of the electric power system with end-use applications and loads. On track to be published in draft form for balloting in March 2011, the IEEE P2030 guide will define smart grid terms, necessary elements and functional requirements. The goals are to encourage interconnection standards creation and enhancement and drive smart grid buildouts. The document will then evolve over years along with the smart grid itself.
The cross-discipline collaboration that is taking place in the IEEE P2030 Work Group is revolutionary. Power engineers are determining what information will be exchanged among what devices in the smart grid, and communications and IT engineers are working alongside them to consider how that data exchange will take place seamlessly end to end across energy generation and usage. The task today is one of connecting dots — figuring out, for example, how electric cars might receive, store and supply power (along with all of the billing and reporting logistics that entails) or how a utility might interface seamlessly with the diversity of multi-vendor solar panels in use across its customer base.
Key, inherent characteristics such as due process, openness and transparency have made the IEEE P2030 Work Group a global integration point for smart grid concern — a source of dependable, consensus answers for international governments, manufacturers and utilities with smart grid questions. In turn, experiences in other parts of the world are helping inform standards that underlie U.S. smart grid development. For example, data from Germany, where voltage and frequency windows are looser than the parameters that U.S. products must operate within, is being leveraged in ongoing refinement of IEEE 1547, “Physical and electrical interconnections between utility and distributed generation.” The National Institute of Standards and Technology identified IEEE 1547 as a standard around which enough consensus exists to fuel smart grid rollout in the U.S.
The interest in making power delivery more efficient, secure and environmentally neutral is shared internationally. The drive to create a standards road map for smart grid interconnection is becoming globally joined, as well. Transparent and fair standards activities, such as the IEEE P2030 Work Group, provide governments, manufacturers and utilities with a community in which to explore the integration of technologies that will enable smart grid rollout around the world.
W. Charlton “Chuck” Adams Jr. is an IEEE Senior Member and President, IEEE Standards Association. Dick DeBlasio is an IEEE Senior Life Member, and Chair, IEEE P2030 Work Group.
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