Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Inevitable Emergence of The Smart Grid

On March 5, 2004, Andres Carvallo defined the smart grid as follows. “The smart grid is the integration of an electric grid, a communications network, software, and hardware to monitor, control, and manage the creation, distribution, storage and consumption of energy. The smart grid of the future will be distributed, it will be interactive, it will be self-healing, and it will communicate with every device.”
And he also defined an advanced smart grid as follows. “An advanced smart grid enables the seamless integration of utility infrastructure, with buildings, homes, electric vehicles, distributed generation, energy storage, and smart devices to increase grid reliability, energy efficiency, renewable energy use, and customer satisfaction, while reducing capital and operating costs.”
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released a handbook on the smart grid in 2009, and in the first few pages, made a distinction between a “smarter grid” and a “smart grid.” By this reasoning, the former is achievable with today’s technologies, while the latter is more of a vision of what will be achievable as a myriad of technologies come on line and as multiple transformations reengineer the current grid. The DOE vision for a smart grid uses these adjectives: intelligent, efficient, accommodating, motivating, opportunistic, quality-focused, resilient, and green.
In effect, all definitions of the smart grid, envision some future state with certain defined qualities. So for purposes of discussion and clarity, we have adopted a convention for this book in which we refer to smart grids today as first generation smart grids, or Smart Grid 1.0, if you will. Our vision for the future we define as second generation smart grids, or Smart Grid 2.0, or as in the title of this book, we simply refer to the advanced smart grid. And at the end of this book, we envision a future where the smart grid has evolved to an even more advanced state, which we call Smart Grid 3.0.
We use a key distinguishing feature to mark the difference between smart grids as they’re envisioned today and how they will evolve as experience is gained and a more expansive vision—our more expansive vision, we hope—is adopted. The difference, while it may seem trivial at first, is fundamental, and that has to do with the starting point for the smart grid project. If the project starts off with an application then that smart grid by our definition must be a Smart Grid 1.0 project. If on the other hand, the starting point is a deliberate architecture, design and integrated IP network(s) that supports any application choice, then it is a Smart Grid 2.0, or an advanced smart grid project.
Nearly all smart grid projects today start with a compelling application, whether generation automation (e.g., distributed control systems), substation automation (e.g., SCADA/EMS), distribution automation (e.g., distribution management system, outage management system, or geospatial information system), demand response, or meter automation, and then design a dedicated communication network that is capable of supporting the functionality of each stand-alone application. Evolved from the silos of the current utility ecosystem (i.e., generation, transmission, distribution, metering, and retail services), the first generation smart grid carries with it a significant level of complexity, often perceived as a natural aspect of a smart grid project.
In fact, a considerable amount of the complexity and cost of a first generation smart grid project derives from its application-layer orientation. Starting at Layer 7 of the OSI Stack, the application layer—regardless of the application—requires complex integration projects to enable grid interoperability, from the start of the smart grid project onward into the future. As additional applications and devices are added to the smart grid, whether as part of the original deployment or subsequently and over time, the evolving smart grid must be integrated to ensure system interoperability and sustained grid operations. In short, starting with the application brings greater complexity, which comes at the expense of long-term grid optimization.
The advanced smart grid perspective begins with a basic tenet. At its core, a smart grid transition is about managing and monitoring applications and devices by leveraging information to gain efficiency for short-term and long-term financial, environmental, and societal benefits. For a system architecture whose principal goal is to leverage information on behalf of customer outcomes, it makes better sense to start with use cases, define necessary processes, choose application requirements, optimize data management and communication designs, and then make infrastructure decisions. A primary focus on the appropriate design process ensures that the system will do what it is meant to do. This key insight—starting at the network layers rather than the application layer—produces the appropriate architecture and design, and drives incredible benefits measured not only in hard cost benefits, but also in soft strategic and operational benefits.
Network-layer change stresses investment in a future-proof architecture and network that will be able to accomplish not only the defined goals of the present and near-term future, but also the undefined but likely expansive needs of a dynamic digital future, replete with emerging innovative applications and equipment. A well-informed design and resilient integrated IP network foundation puts the utility in a position of strength, able to choose from best-of-breed solutions as they emerge, adapting the network to new purposes and functionality, consistently driving costs out by leveraging information in new ways. The advanced smart grid is foundational; we go so far as to say that its emergence is inevitable.
The advanced smart grid is bound to emerge for two principal reasons. First, electricity is an essential component of modern life, without which we revert to life as it was in the mid-nineteenth century. The loss of electrical power, even for just a few hours, is the ultimate disruption to the way we live. We simply cannot live as a modern society without electricity. And second, at its core, technological progress is all about individual empowerment. But only recently have advances in component miniaturization, computers, software, networking, and device power management technology and the standards that drive their pace of innovation combined to enable individual empowerment in the electric utility industry. A new distributed grid architecture is beginning to emerge that will not only ensure future reliability, but also empower individuals in new ways.
Networks and individual empowerment define twenty-first century technology. It is inevitable that the design of advanced smart grids will begin with a network orientation that is able to accommodate any and all network devices and applications that will emerge in the future. It is also inevitable that advanced smart grids will evolve to ensure an abundant and sustainable supply of electricity and to empower individuals to manage their own production, distribution, and consumption of this essential commodity. The advanced smart grid must be robust, flexible, and adaptable, so it will be; as projects move along the learning curve, society who will insist on an advanced smart grid.
An excerpt from The Advanced Smart Grid: Edge Power Driving Sustainability by Andres Carvallo and John Cooper © 2011 Artech House, Inc. Reprinted with permission of the publisher. The book is available at and

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