Part III: Will Industry Focus on New Power Vision?

By Kathleen Davis, senior editor

An Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) report touts a “holistic” approach to power.

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Given that most every item and entity in the power industry is categorized, separated, compartmentalized and labeled, the “Vision for a Holistic Power Supply and Delivery Chain” report envisions a turn from how the power system is laid out under the choppy, interconnected morsels of the status quo.

Questions remain whether such a vision is practical and feasible. Utility Automation & Engineering T&D (UAE) asked Stephen Lee, EPRI project manager and author of that holistic vision. In our first two installments (see May and June 2009 issues, Notes), Lee talked about how he crafted this holistic vision and the distribution pathway of the holistic vision, including renewables.

In this installment, Lee answers the most important question: Why bother with a holistic vision?

“We need to change our institutional and man-made systems so that they do not get in the way of the laws of physics and the principles of economics,” Lee said.

Why Should T&D Care About Generation?

In the previous installments of this article series, Lee’s holistic approach was cut down to just the transmission and distribution side. That sort of divisive practice, however, is what Lee is trying to avoid. Because all aspects of the power industry have the same goal–delivering the power product to customers–Lee sees them as symbiotic.

“The purpose of an electric power system is to generate electricity and deliver it to all customers,” he said. “Each part of the power system, from generation through the transmission and distribution networks, as well as the customers using the electricity, has to work together to achieve this goal. Just having a strong and reliable T&D system does not deliver electricity to the customers without generation.”

In the old days, all aspects of power worked together in a vertically integrated system, but today they have been split because planning and operation are no longer centralized. Each investment–in a plant, for example–is looking at separate profit lines, revenue streams and returns.

“This investment environment is like real estate development,” Lee said, “which has a tendency towards boom or bust because the individual investments are based on business projections without the benefit of knowing whether the combined investments of independently made decisions will exceed the market needs.”

The holistic approach views the supply and delivery ends of the system as whole and healthy, Lee said. Noticing weaknesses and how they might impact up or down the chain should help with faster restoration and reduce the magnitude and duration of major blackouts.

“This new approach is much preferred over today’s disjointed planning process where generation investments and transmission investments are made without sufficient coordination and optimization,” Lee said.

Right and Wrong

If all goes right with this holistic vision, Lee sees it coming to fruition in stages:

1) Regional planning processes start to increase geographical footprints, and
2) The reform of the regulatory system to enable allocations based on actual usage.

Lee said that some independent system operators (ISOs) and regional transmission organizations (RTOs) already are working on the first step. He used the Joint Coordinated System Planning Group of Midwest ISO, PJM, Tennessee Valley Authority, Southwest Power Pool and Mid-Continent Area Power Pool (MAPP) as examples.

“The industry will benefit from reaching the stage where each of the three major interconnections of North America, WECC (Western Electricity Coordinating Council), Eastern Interconnection and ERCOT, perform coordinated system planning for their entire footprints. This stage can easily be reached in a year or two,” Lee said.

As for the second stage, Lee said it will hinge on this holistic process, the point where everything turns. If done right, it could settle cost burden arguments because it will settle the underlying financial issues. This remains the biggest barrier to the vision.

“If this step is not done, the holistic vision may not come to fruition,” Lee said. “Thus, the biggest hurdle is in fact a human-made barrier, not a technological barrier.”

Lee hopes the new generation of engineers and regulators can embrace changes like an automatic transmission toll collection system for the future of his holistic vision, he said.

“Today, with the dissatisfaction of profit-driven financial schemes and the emergence of the Generation Y, which advocates and practices social entrepreneurship, we have the best conditions ever to make this holistic vision a reality,” Lee said. “We need to move away from pure free-market competition to an era of collaboration with regulated competition and regulated markets. I am optimistic that in the aftermath of the global financial crisis some changes will take place.”

This article is the third installment of a multipart series on EPRI’s “Vision for a Holistic Power Supply and Delivery Chain.” Read all of the interview with Lee online at http://utilityautomation.com.


Industry Leaders Speak Out on Standards Meeting

Some 70 leaders from energy, information technology and other industries discussed smart grid technology May 18 at the White House with Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

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During the meeting came the announcement of 16 National Institute of Standards and Technology-recognized interoperability standards that will help ensure that software and hardware from different vendors will work together to secure the grid against disruptions.

The comments Chu and Locke made during the meeting give the GridWise Alliance confidence that the standards will be completed by September, said Guido Bartels, GridWise Alliance chairman. He called it a “step forward for the commercial implementation of America’s smart grid.”

The secretaries also announced during the meeting that the Department of Energy will increase the maximum award available under its Smart Grid Investment Grant Program from $20 million to $200 million and for smart grid demonstration projects from $40 million to $400 million.

Bartels said the standards have the alliance’s support.

“Today’s decisions will put the U.S. on the fast track globally and help the U.S. become the world leader in smart grid development,” Bartels said.


ZigBee Alliance, ESMIG Work Toward Interoperable EU Smart Metering

The ZigBee Alliance and the European Smart Metering Industry Group (ESMIG) are defining interoperable communications standards for smart metering technology in the European Union (EU).

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“ESMIG believes that a handful of proven and open standards, like ZigBee Smart Energy, will play a key role in EU smart metering projects because they deliver the most value for all parties and allow utility service providers with flexibility in choosing standards that fit their specific requirements,” said Dr. Howard Porter, ESMIG managing director.

ESMIG provides impartial smart metering expertise to key stakeholders including EU institutions, its 27 member state governments, authorities, regulators and some 2,000 electric, gas and water utility providers. Members determined that the ZigBee Alliance and its ZigBee Smart Energy provide a solid, open standards approach to smart metering communication. The alliance and ESMIG will identify where ZigBee Smart Energy can be rolled out. The two organizations will evaluate ways to maximize a standardized smart metering program for consumers, utility service providers and the environment.

“ESMIG is working to speed the adoption of smart metering in Europe, and ZigBee Smart Energy can play a strong role in helping Europe achieve its smart metering goals today,” said Bob Heile, ZigBee Alliance chairman.


NASEO: Federal Stimulus Spending About to Flow

More than $1 billion dollars in federal stimulus funding for energy efficiency and other green projects and programs will begin to flow from the federal government to the states in weeks, according to the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO).

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This initial funding, part of the federal economic stimulus plan signed into law in February, is being processed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Following this initial burst of funding, NASEO expects federal stimulus spending to accelerate in the next several months as detailed funding plans are reviewed and approved by the energy department.

The federal stimulus plan dedicates $16 billion in targeted clean energy and energy-efficiency spending, including:

  • $3.1 billion for the State Energy Program for energy efficiency, renewable energy and alternative transportation programs;
  • $3.2 billion for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program directed to U.S. cities, local governments and states;
  • $5 billion for the Weatherization Assistance Program, which helps low-income people reduce their energy bills by making homes more energy efficient;
  • $4.4 billion for utilities and others involved in developing a national smart grid for electricity transmission, delivery and use; and
  • $300 million for state energy offices to deliver Energy Star appliance rebates for consumers across every state.

State energy offices are directly investing and managing approximately $3.8 billion of energy spending through the State Energy Program, Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program and Energy Star appliance rebates to consumers.

The NASEO represents state and territory energy offices with members typically designated by governors.

To learn more about specific funding plans and programs in each state, reach specific state energy offices. A complete list of is accessible at http://naseo.org/members/states.


IEC Takes Charge of Global Smart Grid Standards

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) is spearheading a global initiative to support the new smart electric power grids around the world with common, technical standards that ensure interoperability, security and energy savings.

IEC and smart grid technology experts met in April at a Paris workshop hosted by IEC member UTE and EDF Group Research and Development. The experts agreed on a roadmap to ensure interoperability of smart grid systems.

“I am delighted that IEC has taken charge of global interoperability in setting international standards for the smart grid,” said Frank Kitzantides, IEC vice president and former vice president of the U.S. National Electrical Manufacturers Association. “This will be of tremendous benefit.”

Richard Schomberg, U.S. vice president of research at EDF, brought together experts in electrical generation, distribution, transmission, consumption and measurement from the group’s 13 nations: Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, the U.K. and the U.S.

“While the term “Ëœsmart grid’ may appear to be a new concept, it has been used for many years around the world,” Schomberg said.

Interoperability is a new challenge to integrate many complex technologies. As part of the initial smart grid framework, the strategic group designated 19 technical committees whose existing international standards play a role in the smart grid structure, Schomberg said.

“The IEC is a beacon for the electrical industry in terms of smart grid, and we’re starting to provide a one-stop shop for the large number of smart grid projects that are being launched around the world,” he said.

The IEC is developing a Web portal to allow those involved in smart grid projects easy access to a first release of the “IEC Smart Grid Framework” and its ready-to-use standards. Manufacturers, designers and distributors will be able to find a single database of all IEC smart grid-related standards for projects they’re developing and obtain guidance to make best use of them.

The importance of common technical standards in deploying the smart grid was underlined recently by the U.S. Department of Energy, which issued its list of first National Institute of Standards and Technology-recognized interoperability standards including IEC 60870-6, IEC 61850, IEC 61968, IEC 61970 and IEC 62351 Parts 1-8 dealing with information security for power system control operations.


National Grid Plans Worcester Smart Grid Pilot

National Grid plans to file with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities its proposal to build and operate a smart grid pilot in Worcester, Mass. The pilot will involve some 15,000 customers.

“Smart grid is the way of the future, and I’m glad to see National Grid proposing this pilot project for Worcester,” Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray said. “If the pilot moves forward as planned, consumers will get new ways to manage their energy use and find new ways to save money.”

National Grid announced its plans for the pilot at a Clark University press conference in Worcester.

The proposal is one of the smart grid pilot projects required under the commonwealth’s Green Communities Act, said Ian Bowles, Energy and Environmental Affairs secretary.

“I look forward to seeing whether it can deliver the strong benefits we believe are possible,” he said. “Today, we can all manage our cell phone plans, but not our electricity use. Smart grid technology is a tool that can help consumers and reduce environmental impacts, and the sooner we learn how to use it, the better.”

The act requires utilities to submit proposals and develop smart grid technologies.

National Grid’s pilot will cover more than 1 percent of its Massachusetts customer base and will allow the company to include a sufficient number of electricity distribution substations to test infrastructure configurations that include overhead and underground electrical devices.

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com.

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