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A strategic road map to smart grid success

John McDonald

Creating a smarter grid is the “checkered flag” our industry has been eyeing for years — long before the term “smart grid” was coined. We’ve developed the technology and assembled the pieces, but deployment has been confined to local exits from the slow lane.

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Now, with stimulus funding and increasing consumer awareness, it’s time to move smart grid into the express lane. We have a phenomenal opportunity to accelerate smart grid deployment, and we’ll need a strategic road map in place to optimize the integration of smart technologies into our infrastructure. We also need to shift gears from traditional “siloed” processes to a strategic, holistic drive toward energy delivery.

Driving holistic strategies

The strategic road map to a smarter grid starts with open, collaborative strategies from key drivers of smart grid solutions.

Utilities will need to take down traditional departmental barriers and rid their organizations of siloed processes, which tend to result in creating disparate solutions and redundant systems. Utility CEOs and C-Level executives must initiate and mandate this cultural change, as they reorganize their operations into cross-functional groups and reward holistic strategies.

Suppliers will need to refocus their efforts with the understanding that their products and services are an integral part of an integrated solution. And by designing products and services with the flexibility to function across the spectrum of design, they will stay in the lead as smart grid evolves.

Unfolding the strategic road map

Following the strategic road map, utilities will also need to establish and share smart grid strategies and objectives across the industry and work to standardize the methodology for evaluating, approving and implementing smart grid technologies.

Ideally, the strategic road map leads to city-scale smart grid deployment, touching on six important guideposts along the way:

1) Establish goals: Taking into account regulations, technology, and economic and business factors, utilities will need to align strategies while setting clear and measureable goals.
2) Understand the latest technology: Knowing what’s real, what’s vaporware and what’s on the horizon can help you define your direction when fashioning overall improvement plans.
3) Industry standards: Technology standards are continually emerging across the industry. Knowing standards’ status helps you select solutions that are scalable and flexible, lessening the risk of installing solutions that may soon be obsolete.
4) Create a solid business case: Creating a value proposition with stringent vetting processes helps ensure that investments result in lasting solutions.
5) Regulatory policy: Regulatory policies can vary from state to state. Adopt a multipronged approach to enable broader penetration by designing solutions that take advantage of state-specific regulatory policies.
6) Recognize state energy policies: Some states, such as New York, have separate state energy policies in addition to regulatory policies. Tailor your solutions to meet energy policy objectives, as well.

A new measure of operational success

Siloed system implementation leads to siloed metrics and evaluations. A new system rollout might be considered a success even though it missed its potential to deliver even greater value as part of a holistic solution.

For example, a utility may have one team evaluating an outage management system (OMS) while another team is evaluating smart meters. The OMS team might select a product that does not consider meter point information while the smart meter team might dismiss the need for meters to connect to an OMS. Each team could implement its solution and claim success, even though each missed the tremendous potential of an integrated system to understand outage scope, diagnose the cause and reroute power. An organizational policy that mandates holistic solutions would, like a smart grid, reroute thinking to prevent missed potential and overlooked synergies.

Early adopters of this approach will gain an advantage by aligning strategies with solution providers and will help define the ultimate design and functionality of smart grid tools. As one of these influencers, you’ll receive greater benefits from smart grid implementation because you will have helped design it.

Stimulating lasting success

The smart grid is an ever-evolving entity, and stimulus funds are accelerating the pace of evolutionary change. In order for smart grid to deliver on its full potential, solution providers need to position themselves to respond to this evolutionary change. Companies that embrace the new reality and follow the strategic road map will take the lead in driving smart grid success. And their strategy will include holistic solutions that pay off across the board today — and well after we cross the finish line.

John D. McDonald, P.E., is an IEEE Fellow and past president of the IEEE Power & Energy Society (PES). He is also a member of IEC Technical Committee (TC) 57 and Working Groups (WGs) 3 and 10, the VP of Technical Activities for the U.S. National Committee (USNC) of CIGRE, and the past chair of the IEEE PES Substations Committee. Additionally, Mr. McDonald is the General Manager of Marketing for GE Energy T&D.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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