BTL Mark: Resolve interoperability issues & increase buyer confidence
EMAIL INTERVIEW - Crisie Charan-Thomas & Ken Sinclair
FAQ’s for Smart Grid Interoperability
A two-way flow of information coupled with a two-way flow of power.
Sinclair: What is the definition of a “Smart Grid?”
Charan-Thomas: If you visit a hundred different web sites, you will find a hundred different definitions of a Smart Grid. Since there is no globally-centralized Smart Grid authority, we may never have a single definition – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. However, in analyzing many of the definitions that are out there, you will find a couple of elements that are common to almost all of them: a two-way flow of information coupled with a two-way flow of power. When you think about it, one of these two items are involved in every application we talk about in Smart Grid; distributed generation, demand response, renewable integration, energy storage, consumer energy management, smart appliances, advanced metering infrastructure, substation automation, and so on. This may not be the actual definition of a “Smart Grid,” but it’s pretty darn handy when trying to describe what we are trying to achieve.
Sinclair: What does it mean for a grid device to be “smart?”
Charan-Thomas: Every software vendor and power equipment is currently touting the smartness of their products, but clearly they constitute varying degrees depending on the kind of system you are considering. To facilitate this discussion, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) has published a relative scale of smartness in a white paper entitled Standardizing the Classification of Intelligence Levels and Performance of Electricity Supply Chains. In this document, NEMA has identified six different levels of intelligence as summarized in the following table:
Level 0 – Manual Operation
No observability, no controllability, no communications
Level 1 – Electronic Digital Communication
Either one-way (status reporting) or two-way (status reporting plus remote actuation) communications to a remote node is possible.
Level 2 – Self Actuation, Basic Automation
This is the first level at which local, binary control is possible as a device is able to switch itself on or off.
Level 3 – Self Optimization, Adaptive Behavior
Beyond simple self actuation, Level 3 devices or nodes are aware of some desired operating state and will pursue actions in order to adjust their performance with respect to that state.
Level 4 – Collaboration
This implies the notion of hierarchical operating states and introduces networked intelligence between devices.
Level 5 – Prediction and Plan Development
Beyond interoperability introduced by collaboration, to achieve Level 5 intelligence, some form of automated analysis has to occur that identifies a future, desired operating state.
Sinclair: What is the role of the IP networking in the grid?
Charan-Thomas: Since much of the desired functionality and many of the applications that we seek to enable in the Smart Grid are based on the need for reliable communications, there is a definite role for IP networking as a globally accepted and universally known communications protocol. Naturally there are groups that believe IP should be the only communications protocol that is used in the grid, just as there are groups that believe it shouldn’t be allowed at all. Like it or not, IP is already in the grid in as much as various AMI companies are building IP adapters for smart meters, and IP networking is built into the C12 standards. For devices that are capable of supporting the logical addressing schemes that are characteristic of IP networking implementations, it will be a viable alternative. For devices that are only able to communicate at the physical and media access control layers (Phy-MAC) and do not have the processing power or memory to support a TCP/IP stack, it simply isn’t workable today.
Sinclair: What is the difference between the IEC and NIST approaches to Smart Grid?
Charan-Thomas: Clearly the IEC and NIST are two of the leading bodies promoting Smart Grid, and each has produced their own roadmap. Both groups have gone to great lengths to come up with a list of standards, and they share a number of them in common. In terms of approach, NIST and IEC have considered a slightly different set of applications that will be enabled by Smart Grid. The NIST list of applications includes demand response and consumer energy efficiency, wide-area situational awareness, energy storage, electric transportation, advanced metering infrastructure, distribution grid management, cyber security, and network communications as the priority applications for Smart Grid. The list of IEC applications includes high-voltage DC, blackout prevention, distribution management and automation, substation automation, distributed energy resources, advanced metering infrastructure, demand response, smart homes, electric storage, and electromobility. While they both have differing governing organizations, a number of NIST participants in the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) are also members of the IEC Strategy Group 3 (SG3) for Smart Grid. Also, as a stated objective NIST has indicated that they want to consider international standards “whenever practical” to fill the gaps in their Smart Grid standardization strategy.
Sinclair: What does it mean for a standard to be “open?”
Charan-Thomas: Openness is a term that is used in a variety of contexts and is almost never applied consistently. For example an open source application is one whose source code is publically shared so that any member of the technical community can contribute to it. The Linux operating system is an example of an open source application. An open standard, however, is one that is developed as part of a collaborative, industry process. For example, any standard that is published by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is posted on a web site as a Request For Comment, or RFC. During that time, any interested party may contact the standard’s author and question the content or make a recommendation. After a thorough review period, when all questions and challenges to the standard have been satisfied, it can be adopted by the IETF. Other accredited standards bodies have very strict regulations that govern the way that groups develop standards by enforcing concepts such as balance, lack of dominance, due process, and consensus amongst the standards writing team. The output of this process, which implies broad acceptance by the participants, is considered an open standard.
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