Smart Grid Interoperability and Standards Update


by Dick DeBlasio, Chair, IEEE Standards Coordinating Committee (SCC) 21

When the electric power systems (EPS) that so many utilities around the world rely on were initially engineered, the challenge of linking with active, distribution-level generation and storage technologies still loomed years away. That is why the 2003 publication of IEEE 1547 “Standard for Interconnecting Distributed Resources with Electric Power Systems” was so monumental–it established for the market an unprecedented foundation of credible, shared engineering practices on how to do something it wanted to do. IEEE 1547 filled a void.

After that standard’s release, technologies and techniques for interconnection technologies have evolved quickly; largely, interconnection has grown more digital and more controllable. And innovation has intensified in the most recent years, with the gathering, global drive for grid modernization. Development of IEEE P1547a “Draft Standard for Interconnecting Distributed Resources with Electric Power Systems–Amendment 1” is underway to help the market as it confronts new challenges in grid interconnection with the worldwide proliferation of distributed generation and applications such as microgrids.

Now, an even longer leap forward is being undertaken. Utilities, vendors, independent power producers, regulators and other stakeholders are being marshaled to consider the scope and intentions of a full revision of IEEE 1547 to be completed by 2018.

Might the scope of the standard be expanded to address transmission, in addition to distribution? And what emerging, advanced technologies and applications–microgrids, islanding, inverter communications, ride-through frequencies/voltages, higher renewable penetrations, synchrophasors, etc.–should be addressed in more depth in a revised standard?

These and other questions must be addressed before the hard work of consensus building around and writing an updated IEEE 1547 begins in earnest.

The unfolding story of distributed generation rollout and IEEE 1547 is emblematic of the larger relationship of grid modernization and standards development.

One feeds the other, and smart grid innovation and deployment are fueled.

Standards Development Spurs Market Activity

In the United States, with industry deregulation in the late 1990s, independent power producers sought to level the business and technical barriers to distributed generation. The problem was that no widely adopted industry standards were in place to define the interconnections between independent power producers and the power grid. Rather, thousands of complex interconnection agreements existed across the global utility landscape, and this hindered technology development because it was costly for vendors to develop solutions that might have to be tailored for so many disparate applications and inconsistent agreements from utility jurisdiction to utility jurisdiction.

This is where the Department of Energy (DOE) comes into the story. Hoping to relieve the market stagnation and spur manufacturing, implementation and interconnection of distributed generation technologies, the DOE engaged IEEE in developing a national standard for this area.

The IEEE 1547 development project was launched. Upon its approval by the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) in 2003, the standard set forth the industry’s first performance, operation, testing, safety and maintenance criteria and requirements for distributed resources with aggregate capacity of 10 megavolt ampere (MVA) or less at the point of common coupling.

Since IEEE 1547’s publication, the standard has been leveraged in federal legislation and rule making, the deliberations of state regulatory bodies and key utility engineering and business practices–not only in the United States but also other markets including Germany, Japan and Korea. Eighty percent of the United States’ public utility commissions (PUCs) have adopted IEEE 1547, and the standard was referenced in the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005 as the model for interconnection services. In other markets, while it might not have been formally adopted in whole, IEEE 1547’s material requirements for how distributed generators can be linked or disconnected with the grid have been leveraged in various documents. IEEE 1547, furthermore, has been used by utilities in developing technical requirements and informing interconnection agreements with independent power producers.

New Market Needs Drive New Standards Development

Increased reliance on distributed generation, as supported by IEEE 1547, is at the core of some of the smart grid’s most revolutionary possible benefits, such as improving grid reliability, reducing the number and impact of service outages, bolstering national energy strategies and slashing environmental impact and utility and consumer costs. So, it is no surprise that, in the wake of the standard’s publication, implementation of solar, wind and other distributed generation technologies such as electric vehicle batteries and associated interconnection methods have matured.

Moreover, an entire suite of IEEE 1547 interconnection standards has developed as new market needs have arisen in tandem with the real-world deployment of distributed generation. Publication of the base IEEE 1547 spurred market implementation, implementation revealed new challenges, and new challenges necessitated development of a gradually expanding range of IEEE 1547 extension standards:

  • IEEE 1547.1-2005 “Standard Conformance Test Procedures for Equipment Interconnecting Distributed Resources with Electric Power Systems;”
  • IEEE 1547.2-2008 “Application Guide for IEEE Std 1547, IEEE Standard for Interconnecting Distributed Resources with Electric Power Systems;”
  • IEEE 1547.3-2007 “Guide for Monitoring, Information Exchange, and Control of Distributed Resources Interconnected with Electric Power Systems;”
  • IEEE 1547.4-2011 “Guide for Design, Operation, and Integration of Distributed Resource Island Systems with Electric Power Systems,” and
  • IEEE 1547.6-2007 “Recommended Practice for Interconnecting Distributed Resources with Electric Power Systems Distribution Secondary Networks.”

Development is ongoing, too. IEEE P1547.7 “Draft Guide to Conducting Distribution Impact Studies for Distributed Resource Interconnection” is underway, as is IEEE P1547.8 “Draft Recommended Practice for Establishing Methods and Procedures that Provide Supplemental Support for Implementation Strategies for Expanded Use of IEEE Standard 1547.” IEEE P1547.8’s initiation is the result of market uptake of energy storage, hybrid generation storage systems, intermittent renewables, plug-in electric vehicles, inverters used in home solar-power systems and other technologies in the global smart grid effort.

Also, there’s the previously discussed IEEE P1547a, which, when completed, is designed to help enable greater reliance on renewable resources.

IEEE P1547a is being created to address renewables’ intermittency. When the wind is going to blow and when the sun is going to shine are not precisely predictable, and utility EPS demand precision in terms of interconnection of power sources if grid reliability, stability, power quality and worker and consumer safety are to be preserved. Consequently, the penetration of renewable sources has had to be limited to not jeopardize utilities’ traditionally strong profiles in these areas.

Smart inverters comprise a technology innovation designed to offset the impact of the intermittency, thus paving the way for reliance on greater numbers of solar, wind and other renewable sources. IEEE 1547a, then, addresses the new market need revealed by the proliferation of the new power electronics: to revisit the existing limitations on penetration and operations of distributed resources and potentially reset guidelines for voltage regulation and response to abnormal conditions of voltage and frequency. Does the amendment need to define interconnection beyond 10 MVA? Penetration ceilings vary around the world (higher in Denmark and Germany, for example, than in the United States), and some nations including China seek to significantly boost reliance on wind and solar sources. Participants in the development of IEEE P1547a include utilities, manufacturers, system integrators, regulators, test laboratories and academia globally.

After more than 10 years of successful use in the field (and the grassroots development of new interconnection lessons learned and engineering practices in the real world of implementation), IEEE 1547 is ready for a comprehensive refresh. PUC commissioners, utilities, manufacturers and independent power producers each have a unique perspective to offer in helping shape the direction of the revised standard, and the coming months will present their opportunity to weigh in.

IEEE standards are created within a formal, time-tested process that is rooted in consensus, due process, openness, right to appeal and balance and is adherent to the principles and requirements of the World Trade Organization’s “Decision on Principles for the Development of International Standards, Guides and Recommendations.” Developing a project authorization request is the first step toward launching a formal IEEE standard-development project. Once such a request is approved, a working group develops a draft standard that then goes through a series of ballots. All comments received must be considered. A 75 percent response from the draft standard’s ballot group is required–with 75 percent voting to approve–for approval.

When executed effectively, the IEEE process is proven for producing standards that expand global markets, contribute to interoperability and innovation and accelerate the pace of technical evolution. These dynamics are evident in the story of the ever-growing IEEE 1547 family of standards.

Dick DeBlasio, in addition to his role as chair of IEEE SCC21 Standards Coordinating Committee on Fuel Cells, Photovoltaics, Dispersed Generation, and Energy Storage, which sponsors and leads the family of standards for IEEE 1547 and IEEE 2030, is a member of the IEEE Standards Board and past member of the IEEE Standards Association board of governors and chief engineer with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

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