Building an interoperable smart grid: IEEE weighs in

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers has approved guidelines providing design characteristics for an interoperable smart grid.

The IEEE 2030 standard brings together expertise from three technical areas — power systems, communications and IT — creating an umbrella document to help guide smart-grid development, said Dick DeBlasio, who chaired the working group that created the standard.

“It is very simplistic and not strong on technical requirements,” said DeBlasio, who also is chief engineer for the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Lab and the IEEE Smart Grid liaison to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. “This is still an evolving area,” and guidelines should not be restrictive.

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IEEE focuses on standards for systems rather than for equipment. The new standard provides guidance rather than technical directives, creating a reference model for interconnection and interoperability. It identifies hundreds of interfaces required in a Smart Grid system. Industry will use the document to create appropriate technical standards that engineers will be able to choose from in designing infrastructure.

The Smart Grid has been identified as a national priority to help create jobs, contribute to energy independence and curb greenhouse gas emissions by allowing the introduction of sustainable energy sources into the grid. It would use intelligent networking and automation to better control the flow and delivery of electricity to consumers, enabling a two-way flow of electricity and information between the power plant and the appliance, and points in between.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 gave NIST the lead in developing technical standards for the United States, and the agency announced earlier in September that it would be working with its European counterparts to develop a common framework for the smart grid.

NIST released the first version of a Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability Standards in January 2010. It identified 75 existing technical standards that were applicable to the smart grid. A second version of the framework, now in draft form, includes 83 applicable standards, some now under development by standards organizations. New standards to fill the gaps in the existing framework are being developed by the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel, headed by NIST.

Although its standards and guidance are widely adopted, NIST, because it is a U.S. government agency, does not create mandatory standards for industry or for other countries. IEEE, as an international industry association, creates the consensus-based standards that are adopted by industry in implementing the higher-level NIST framework.

“The implementation side is where IEEE comes in,” DeBlasio said. The next level of standards detail is provided by industry-specific standard-setting bodies that set technical requirements for the equipment they are manufacturing.

International standardization of Smart Grid technology is needed to provide industry with economic incentives to develop and manufacture the hardware and software needed for a 21st century power grid, DeBlasio said. “The real international interest is in import-export, it’s commerce,” he said. That is why technical standards must be kept flexible. “It’s hard enough doing it in one country.”

IEEE 2030 provides alternative approaches and best practices for achieving smart grid interoperability, defining terminology, characteristics, functional performance and evaluation criteria. It is available at the IEEE Standards Store.

Work has begun on three extensions to the standard:

  • IEEE P2030.1, Guide for Electric-Sourced Transportation Infrastructure to support electric powered vehicles.
  • IEEE P2030.2, Guide for the Interoperability of Energy Storage Systems.
  • IEEE P2030.3, Standard for Test Procedures for Electric Energy Storage Equipment and Systems.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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