May 2009

Smart grid plan headed for Congress

"We all know the electric system is about generation and transmission and distribution. But everyone is a stakeholder in the smart grid," said Dave Hardin with Invensys and a member of the U.S. Department of Energy grid-wise architectures council.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy the electric grid encompasses myriads of local area networks that use distributed energy resources to serve local loads and meet specific application requirements for remote power, village or district power, premium power, and critical loads protection.

The smart grid refers to the future energy system for integrating electricity from many sources and efficiently delivering it to homes and business using high technology.

Hardin is also a co-chair with Keith Stouffer of NIST in an internet-to-grid (I2G) expert domain working group that is preparing a report to provide an interoperability assessment and roadmap for the I2G interconnections of the smart grid, eventually rolling into a report from NIST to Congress.

The NIST effort is about trying to develop a standards framework that integrates all the generators and all the consumers on the grid of the future. I2G is the voice of industry stakeholders in this smart grid standardization effort, Hardin said.

One industrial need deals with the availability of dynamic pricing information, access pricing, and energy forecasts, so operations can make better plans and schedule decisions in the plant based on the dynamic cost of electricity. Another need is the ability of industry to participate in an energy market as a producer.

"As the smart grid moves forward, we need ongoing participation and representation in this process," Hardin said. That is where ISA can play a big role-in bringing together industrial stakeholders along with vendors and standard organizations-to shepherd the standards and interoperations between the smart grid and the industrial domain."

"It's important to get involved with opportunities coming up. We want to help fuel these opportunities through development of standards. The smart grid will not evolve rapidly without interoperability between systems," he said.

The I2G group is a group of 15 experts that cover industry (the grid) operations and industrial automation. It is comprised of representatives from standards organizations, industrial manufacturers, and power companies. The working group is recommending architectures and standards to be used in the short term and standards to be developed over time. 

The Automation Federation and ISA are already actively working with industry customers and utilities to provide a stakeholder venue for on-going standards development and the associated education, training, and support for application in industrial operations.

The smart grid of the future will require automation and information exchange.  Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar require enhanced automation and prediction of integration in the grid.

"We would like manufacturers to get involved in this process. If energy matters in your manufacturing, or it's a large part of your operating costs, you should care about the smart grid and how that evolves," Hardin said. 

Opportunities exist for software modeling technology, enhanced automation, enhanced systems integration, wide area SCADA systems, energy management systems in process plants and factories, development of energy gateways, and portals for integration into the smart grid.

If you are interested in participating in this group, contact Hardin at [email protected]