New standards drive US smart grid forward

Paul Boughton
The agreement of new standards to act as a guide for smart grid-related technologies is helping to drive investment in the US. Sean Ottewell reports.

The Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) - a consensus-based group of more than 675 public and private organisations created by the US National Institute of Standards (NIST) - has made the first six entries into its new catalogue of standards, a technical document that is expected to serve as a guide for smart grid-related technology in the country.

The six standards, all of which were approved previously by the SGIP's governing board, received approval by more than 90 per cent of the broader SGIP membership in a recent vote. Although the SGIP does not develop or write these standards directly, a vote of approval signifies that its member organisations have agreed on the inclusion of a group of standards in the catalogue.

The announcement follows an earlier decision by the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in which it declined to take action on the first five sets of smart grid interoperability standards submitted to it by NIST.

FERC explained that there was no consensus among key stakeholders that the standards should be adopted, and that the standards failed to address cybersecurity concerns. The agency asked NIST to continue to work on the standards in consultation with stakeholders, however. FERC is required to review and approve NIST standards and protocols governing the operation of smart grid systems under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

SGIP said that the six entries in its catalogue of standards relate to high-priority national standards needed to create a modern, energy-efficient power grid with seamlessly interoperable components.

"In order to convert today's power grid - which still functions largely as it did when grids were created in the 19th century - into a power distribution network that can enable the wide use of electric vehicles, as well as incorporate renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, a number of new standards must be established," it said.

Among the catalogue's six standards are:

- Internet protocol standards, which will allow grid devices to exchange information.

- Energy usage information standards, which will permit consumers to know the cost of energy used at a given time.

- Standards for vehicle charging stations, necessary for ensuring electric vehicles can be connected to power outlets.

- Use cases for communication between plug-in vehicles and the grid, to help ensure that the vehicles - which will draw heavy power loads - will not place undue strain on the grid.

- Requirements for upgrading smart meters, which will replace household electric meters.

- Guidelines for assessing standards for wireless communication devices, which will be needed for grid communication but can have far less tolerance for delay or interruption of signals than there is among general data communication devices, such as cell phones.[Page Break]

NY and Kentucky smart grids

The New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) - a not-for-profit corporation responsible for operating the state's bulk electricity grid, administering New York's competitive wholesale electricity markets, conducting comprehensive long-term planning for the state's electric power system, and advancing the technological infrastructure of the electric system serving the state - has unveiled details of a $74m (EUR54m) smart grid initiative. It is being supported a US Department of Energy smart grid investment grant of more than $37m (EUR27m).

In addition to announcing details of the new smart grid initiative, the NYISO also held a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of construction of its new $35.5m (EUR26m) primary power control centre. The new facility is being built adjacent to the NYISO's existing hq building in the city of Rensselaer, near Albany.

Completion of the smart grid and control centre projects will allow the NYISO to better fulfil its core mission of maintaining reliability of the state's bulk power system and operating economically efficient wholesale markets.

For example, the new control facility is designed to meet 21st century grid reliability requirements through the use of the latest control technologies and state-of-the-art visual displays designed to improve the NYISO's ability to receive, process and monitor changing conditions throughout the region.

"The federal investment we see here today will create new jobs and improve the electric grid's efficiency and reliability for all New Yorkers," noted congressman Paul Tonko.

The NYISO has begun working with individual utilities around the state to implement the new smart grid initiative, which involves the installation of capacitor banks and phasor measurement units (PMUs) on the bulk transmission system throughout the state.

The capacitor banks will improve the efficiency of the state's bulk transmission system by reducing the amount of electricity that is lost when carried over long distances on the bulk transmission system, thus saving the state approximately US$9m (EUR6.6m) per year.

The installation of PMUs and integration of the data provided will improve grid operators' visualisation capabilities and situational awareness. Eventually, the NYISO's PMU network will connect with PMU networks in New England, the mid-Atlantic, the Midwest and Ontario, Canada, to create a broader situational awareness throughout the Eastern Interconnection Planning Collaborative, a coalition of 24 transmission planning authorities in the eastern US.

Meanwhile, Kentucky's Glasgow Electric Plant Board (Glasgow EPB) has selected Elster's EnergyAxis smart grid solution to deliver advanced time-of-use billing capabilities to its customers.

By deploying the EnergyAxis solution across its infrastructure, Glasgow EPB expects improved operational efficiencies and anticipates empowering its customers to better manage energy usage and lower energy costs.

Glasgow EPB is one of the 155 Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) power distributors, and an active member of the Tennessee Valley Public Power Association (TVPPA). TVPPA represents utilities who receive power from the TVA, a federally owned corporation providing electricity for nine million people across southeastern states. As part of its decades-long work toward its vision of Infotricity, Glasgow EPB will install more than 7500 Elster smart meters before July 2015.

Glasgow EPB is the latest TVA power distributor to partner with Elster as part of the TVA's move toward TOU rates. Using Elster EnergyAxis, Glasgow EPB is rolling out advanced metering and communications technologies to provide these new rate options, giving the utility's consumers greater control of their energy use and costs.[Page Break]

Integrating smart meter data

Intergraph has partnered with meter data management (MDM) provider eMeter to integrate smart meter data into its smart grid operations command-and-control centre. The integration will provide grid operators with consolidated end-to-end network visibility and management capabilities to provide utilities with the full operational benefits of their advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) and smart meter deployments for use in outage detection and response.

The centre integrates the various technologies that make up a smart grid - including outage management, distribution management, Scada, infrastructure management and smart meters - into a consolidated, easy-to-use interface to maximise end-to-end grid efficiency.

By joining eMeter's integrated MDM (iMDM) partner programme, Intergraph will ensure future interoperability between its smart grid control centre technology and eMeter's EnergyIP platform, making it easier for joint utility customers to integrate smart meters and AMI into their grids.

"Intergraph provides a key piece of the smart grid puzzle," said Lisa Caswell, vice president of alliances for eMeter. "The clear integration of smart grid information into a consolidated, user-friendly interface is a unique and necessary capability, and eMeter is pleased that Intergraph will be enabling utilities to easily incorporate advanced meter information into their views."

As an open MDM platform, the eMeter EnergyIP platform offers utilities choice and flexibility in selecting from multiple AMI systems for their smart grid initiatives. Many of the industry's leading AMI and smart meter vendors have already joined the iMDM programme. Intergraph is one of the first upstream solution providers to proactively incorporate rich smart meter information through the iMDM programme.

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