The importance of cybersecurity, the desire for plug-and-play technology and understanding how utilities will have to change with the smart grid future are just three of the lessons from the final utility implementation roundtable at Grid-Interop 2011 in Phoenix.
The first issue discussed at the roundtable involved the missing link of interoperability and smart grid. What’s still blank that needs to be filled?
Philip Slack from Florida Power & Light chose simplicity as the first item missing from interoperability, followed by understanding how to transfer technology into business relevance and vendor education.
Slack stated that, while it’s good that utilities and associations are pushing standards, in the end, that’s not the bottom line.
He said, “We don’t buy standards. We buy products.”
Matt Gillmore with Consumers Energy pointed to detailed simulation testing as missing from the current equation, and Percy Haralson from Southern California Edison (SCE) built on Gillmore’s point with concerns about a common suite of security, noting that there isn’t “a common security thread” from distribution automation to substation automation and into home area networks and advanced metering infrastructure.
“We don’t quite have that yet,” Haralson said.
Gary Stuebing with Duke Energy called out cybersecurity as the industry missing link — true cybersecurity, that is.
“We’re fighting this escalating war with cybersecurity. It will be interesting to see what comes along,” he said.
Moving from missing items to how to sell the value of interoperability, Slack added that the industry is “maybe one or two years away from products with rubber that hits the road,” revealing that the value of interoperability will be proven in the near future.
Stuebing added that Duke never had the issue of selling value.
“We’ve never had the problem (of selling the value). We started with the value proposition of smart grid is in interoperability, and management ran with it,” he said.
SCE’s Haralson pointed to better business and consumer experiences as one way to prove interoperability’s value.
“We’re starting to roll out our first deployment of HAN product, and issues can create a bad user experience and a bad experience for the utility and the utility call center,” he said.
Gillmore gave an analogy from a vendor point of view to prove the value of interoperability, namely why would vendors want to build a different product for every utility? From a business standpoint, why wouldn’t they want to capture the business value of interoperability.
“Scale is a huge driver,” he said. “I can’t imagine us having to build a product for Tendril and then a different one for Honeywell.”
Moving from interoperability value to an applications discussion, FPL’s Slack noted that every utility, including his own, are in the midst of a “big data challenge.” He went on to add, “It’s a new world for a company such as us.” It’s no longer about truck rolls and outage management with smart grid. Slack called that the “low-hanging fruit.” Now it’s about business change, a new model and improving customer reliability.
Slack also mentioned cybersecurity and testing in the applications discussion. On cybersecurity, Slack pushed caution over a rush to application. Testing he described as a “gamechanger,” adding that utilities would love plug-and-play technology applications; Slack believes testing is the answer to that.
Duke’s Stuebing noted that all utilities, including his own are “heads-down into implementation” at this point, making applications options a “today” issue. Duke is focused on back-office application and doing something with all the information they’re starting to get back.
“Now we’re trying to understand exactly what we are getting [datawise],” he said.
Consumers’ Gillmore, added the need for a common information profile in the applications process, calling it “a very big deal to us.” Gillmore said that, while they think they are building compliant interfaces, they “really don’t know.”
SCE’s Haralson wants to focus on IEC 61850 with applications and “pushing it out into the distribution world.” While made for transmission, Haralson noted that scalability and ease of maintenance give 61850 great value on the distribution side as well.