Navigating the smart grid transition smoothly

A standards-based approach to integrating utility operations

Published In: Intelligent Utility Magazine May / June 2012


WE ARE IN A PERIOD OF RAPID, GLOBAL rollout of smart grid standards. With the smart grid's promise dependent on crossing the various geographic, operational and technological boundaries that have historically defined electricity delivery around the world, standards serve as bridges for two-way power and information flow end-to-end across an infrastructure that more closely connects energy generation, distribution, delivery and consumption.

So fast and furious is standards development for the smart grid around the world, in fact, that the utilities on the vanguard of real-world rollout may feel a little befuddled in trying to make sense of what is and is not possible today. Thanks to key development activities over the past decade and a new era of smart grid-driven coordination among standards development organizations (SDOs), a standards-based approach to integrating utility applications is, indeed, possible.

Grid interconnection, for example, has been a point of emphasis of the standards community for several years, providing utilities and distributed-generation operators with the ability to flexibly implement standards and tailor processes and infrastructure accordingly. Storage has more recently emerged as a fervent area of standards development.

Innovation in interconnection
Leveraging renewable energy sources on significantly greater scale is among the most commonly shared goals of smartgrid deployment around the world. Expanded reliance on distributed generation of renewables promises a host of revolutionary benefits, including enhanced grid reliability, strengthened national energy strategies and reduced environmental impact and costs.

For utilities, however, the prospect of large-scale penetration of renewables has been a major concern. Utilities are determined to not let distributed and inherently intermittent sources of energy, such as wind and solar, threaten their traditionally strong profiles of service reliability and availability and power quality. Given that utility electric power systems (EPS) were not initially engineered to link with active, distribution-level generation and storage technologies, how can such technologies be safely, simply and smoothly integrated with utility EPS and the grid?

These are the types of questions that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) sought to answer when it funded the research into interconnection methods that, in 2003, yielded IEEE 1547T "Standard for Distributed Resources Interconnected with Electric Power Systems." Addressing performance, operation, testing, safety considerations and maintenance of a grid interconnection, IEEE 1547 delivered groundbreaking technical specifications for installations of distributed-generation technologies of 10 MegaVolt Ampere (MVA) or less at the point of common coupling. The U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005 named the standard in its discussion of interconnection services, and 80 percent of public utility commissions (PUCs) in the United States have adopted IEEE 1547. IEEE in 2008 re-affirmed the standard.

Furthermore, the successful IEEE 1547 development effort-which relied on open, consensus-based processes-has spawned other key standards in relation to integrating utility applications.

Integration standards are growing
First, there are extensions to the IEEE 1547 base standard itself. A host of standards, application guides and recommended practices-addressing conformance test procedures, monitoring, information exchange and control, island systems and distribution secondary networks-have fleshed out the IEEE 1547 suite. And development continues. For example, IEEE P1547.8T "Recommended Practice for Establishing Methods and Procedures that Provide Supplemental Support for Implementation Strategies for Expanded Use of IEEE Standard 1547" is intended to expand the relevance of the base standard to additional technologies such as energy storage, hybrid generation storage systems, intermittent renewables, plugin electric vehicles and inverters used in home solar power systems and other devices.

Then there's IEEE 2030r "Guide for Smart Grid Interoperability of Energy Technology and Information Technology Operation with the Electric Power System (EPS), End-Use Applications, and Loads." Its development effort was modeled on that of IEEE 1547. Communications, information technology (IT) and power engineers came together in March 2009 through the IEEE 2030 Working Group to define the necessary elements and functional requirements of the emerging smart grid, and the cross-discipline collaboration was unprecedented in standards development.

Power engineers identified the devices and information on which the smart grid would rely in order to function, and communications and IT engineers studied how to enable secure, two-way data flow end-to-end across the grid. Dozens of standard interfaces that would be required for integrating utilities with end-use applications and technologies were identified. In September 2011, IEEE 2030 was published, becoming the first foundational, system-of-systems standard developed from the ground up to explore interconnection and interoperability in the smart grid.

The storage frontier
Now, with so much research and standards work having been conducted around improving interconnection, storage has moved to the forefront of activity. It is a logical progression.

While interconnection technologies and standards development have advanced to support significantly expanded reliance on renewable energy sources in the smart grid, there are additional challenges that utilities face in adopting wind, solar and other such sources for voltage support, supplemental peak power at critical operational times and other ancillary services in large scale. A substantially more robust storage capability is necessary, and, again, the inherent intermittency of renewables is the primary issue in the engineering problem to be solved.

For the sake of consumer and worker safety, grid stability and power quality, utilities must conform to regionally diverse regulations with regard to the frequency and voltage bands within which they are allowed to deliver electricity. To offset the uncertainty of not knowing when the sun is going to shine, when the wind is going to blow, etc., the energy drawn from such sources must be able to be stored in order for utilities to buffer their dynamic effect and to advance into large-scale integration of renewables for operational optimization.

This need is the seed of IEEE P2030.2TM “Guide for the Interoperability of Energy Storage Systems Integrated with the Electric Power Infrastructure” and IEEE P2030.3TM “Standard for Test Procedures for Electric Energy Storage Equipment and Systems for Electric Power Systems Applications,” both of which are currently under development. IEEE P2030.2 is envisioned as a sweeping technical knowledge base for discrete and hybrid energy storage systems—defining terminology, functional performance, interoperability of various system topologies, evaluation criteria, operations, testing and engineering principles, etc. IEEE P2030.3, then, is intended to focus on the test and conformance verification concerns associated with integrating such storage systems with the electricity grid.

Standards Coordination
Coordination is taking shape around and across the global standards community with regard to the smart grid, and this, too, is a helpful trend for utilities that are seeking to take a standards-based approach to integrating their applications.

IEEE 1547, for example, was among those standards that the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) identified as important for encouraging smartgrid development to proceed in the United States. And the launch of the IEEE P1547.8 standards-development project was informed in part by a NIST Priority Action Plan that urged expanded interconnection functionality. Similarly, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) has launched a multidimensional graphic interface—the “Smart Grid Standards Mapping Solution”—that details the standards that are needed within a particular subsystem of the grid.

There are instances of various SDOs working together, too. IEEE P2030, for example, is a system-of-system guide to the interfaces across the smart grid, and, as such, it names important standards from a variety of other SDOs in order to provide a comprehensive road map of the options available to utility and manufacturer engineers. Another piece of evidence for this trend is the partnership forged by the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) and SAE International in smart grid-related vehicular technology, toward the goal of faster introduction of better standards.

The smart grid is a tremendously complex undertaking for the world’s utilities, which must at the same time balance the promise of integrating innovative applications and modes of operation against the necessity of maintaining power reliability and quality levels and controlling costs. A framework of globally relevant standards is gathering form to help utilities navigate that transition smoothly.


Related Topics