Creating a Smart Grid Road Map

by Dick DeBlasio, IEEE 2030 Working Group

The world is going somewhere new with the smart grid. It will be a long trip, and not everyone will take the same path from here to there. A dependable road map is a must for this journey. Smart grid routes are being drawn worldwide by utilities and power generators evolving traditional infrastructure and operations.

The industry is designing the journey. Vendors provide the hardware and software products that enable the next-generation, demand-responsive system of two-way power and communications flow. Governments and regulatory bodies examine cost-effective benefits for constituents. Researchers find the smart grid’s uncharted ground—the places to concentrate their work to advance the global movement.

Standards-development organizations (SDOs) are busy mapping, including IEEE. In September, the organization approved and published IEEE 2030, “IEEE Guide for Smart Grid Interoperability of Energy Technology and Information Technology Operation with the Electric Power System (EPS), End-Use Applications, and Loads.” More than 400 people from across the power, communications and information technology industries worked on this collaboration longer than two years, creating an integrated knowledge base and reference model. Their effort has yielded the world’s first system-level, interface-by-interface guide to the paths and turns to be considered on the smart grid journey.

What’s New?

On one end of the journey lies the central-station power plant. On the other end is the electricity customer—either a business or residence. That’s the historical model of electric power infrastructure in almost every market around the world. And it’s not complicated by a lot of gear for consumption administration or control along the way, other than a customer-premise meter.

Technology advancements enabled some innovation in management and control of equipment and loads. Controllers—either equipment or human personnel—might respond to schedules or data and implement some method of delivery or consumption of electricity. The grid evolved to allow augmentation with distributed generators of power and electricity-storage systems.

Maturing communications and information technologies enticed power engineers into imagining a dramatically more intelligent, fully automated and modern system. Global concerns mounted about heightening electricity demand, carbon footprint and the necessity of reliable, high-quality power for global economic health and personal safety and security.

A global smart grid vision has grown from these internal and external drivers—a complex, interconnected system of interrelated and integrated power, communications and information technology systems that improves power reliability, more efficiently uses assets, reduces environmental impact and enables greater customer choice.

The Need for a Map

The smart grid may be viewed as the next stage of an electricity-delivery facility already growing more intelligent, but it’s also traversing new ground. This is underscored by the push to decipher road maps to the future. Almost simultaneously, global players have concluded the same: We need a clearer understanding of where we’re headed with the smart grid.

The U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007, for example, tasked the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) with coordinating input from organizations such as the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) and IEEE in developing a smart grid interoperability framework. The International Organization for Standardization/International Electrotechnical Commission (ISO/IEC) in 2010 developed a similar smart grid standardization road map.

IEEE 2030 was finalized this year. Supporting EISA, NIST, ISO/IEC and other smart grid efforts, the 2030 interoperability standard is designed to help engineers explore design options and requirements, spanning EPS, loads and end-use applications (such as advanced metering infrastructure and plug-in electric vehicles). IEEE 2030 presents alternative approaches and best practices for building an interoperable smart grid. At each interface across the grid, engineers can see connection requirements. Here new standards development is needed to maintain the momentum of real-world rollout.

This Way or That Way?

In its manifestation, the smart grid will draw on intelligence from a power system fully responsive to all end-use applications and loads. The availability and quality of power, the immediate and predicted load demands, and the status of supporting infrastructure will be monitored constantly and automatically controlled.

This vision requires interoperability at every potential smart grid interface. Interoperability eliminates infrastructure dead ends—points where one system is unable to communicate with another. Because the smart grid vision is predicated on interconnection, interoperability is a necessity to achieve the most aggressive revolutionary benefits promised.

IEEE 2030 identifies those functional interfaces and via labeled diagrams offers standards-based guidance for securely integrating EPS with communications and information technology and facilitating data exchange. What the standard does not do, however, is ramrod specific products or technologies into the smart grid. The interoperability reference model in IEEE 2030 is technology agnostic. It merely maps the variables engineers will confront in designing a smart grid infrastructure to be extensible, scalable and upgradeable.

Which way might a given utility or manufacturer turn at a given decision point that IEEE 2030 maps? Those decisions intentionally are left to the standard’s user.

Utilities can use IEEE 2030 in developing road maps. Manufacturers can look to the standard for hardware and software product planning. Researchers and regulators can leverage IEEE 2030 as a knowledge base and reference.

And it’s only the beginning. The multidisciplinary, global effort that yielded IEEE 2030 has spawned work on three additional standards:

  • IEEE P2030.1—Guide for Electric-Sourced Transportation Infrastructure,
  • IEEE P2030.2—Guide for the Interoperability of Energy Storage Systems Integrated with the Electric Power Infrastructure, and
  • IEEE P2030.3—Standard for Test Procedures for Electric Energy Storage Equipment and Systems for Electric Power Systems Applications.

The standards development and mapping will continue for decades, as lessons learned are picked up along the long road of real-world smart grid deployment.

IEEE 2030 Working Group site:

National Renewable Energy Laboratory site:

In addition to his role as chairman of the IEEE 2030 Working Group, Dick DeBlasio is a member of the IEEE Standards Association Board of Governors and chief engineer with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

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