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IEEE: The expertise to make smart grid a reality

IA Round-up of IEEE Smart Grid Expert Opinions on What Will be the Most Important Development to the Grid in 2013

Many prognostications are made about the development of the electric infrastructure in years to come, five, ten, twenty years out. IEEE Smart Grid thought it would be useful to hear what some of its Smart Grid experts think will be the most important development to the grid this year, a much more difficult query without the luxury of a distant time frame to shade the possibilities.

In this roundup: Massoud Amin, Sam Sciacca, Erich Gunther, Steven Collier, and John McDonald weigh in.

Sam Sciacca is a registered Professional Engineer and an active senior member in IEEE and IEC in the areas of utility automation. He has more than 25 years of engineering, marketing, and sales experience in the domestic and international electric utility industries and he is a widely published Smart Grid authority.

“This year will be the beginning of the end of Smart Grid hype. We will begin to see data, information, and results from the many Smart Grid projects undertaken with assistance of the Smart Grid Investment Grant Program announced in 2009. These four years later, the metrics of these Smart Grid projects will become known and we will see which have realized a true economic cost/benefit ratio, making a positive return on investment, and these are the kinds of projects that will be the forerunners in continuing deployments in the near term. Other projects may well have a healthy future but may require development of a credible economic model for Smart Grid rollout. Until or unless we can develop and show a clear benefit-to-cost ratio to consumers, regulators, and utilities, we will continue to talk a lot about Smart Grid but be unable to effect much change.”

Massoud Amin a senior member of IEEE, chairman of the IEEE smart grid newsletter, and a fellow of ASME, holds the Honeywell/H.W. Sweatt Chair in Technological Leadership at the University of Minnesota. He directs the university’s Technological Leadership Institute, is a University Distinguished Teaching Professor and professor of electrical and computer engineering. He held positions of increasing responsibility at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in Palo Alto. After 9/11, he directed EPRI's Infrastructure Security R&D and served as area manager for Security, Grid Operations/Planning, and Energy Markets.

“The current infrastructure is an amazing achievement of engineering for the 20th century, we need to bring it up to the 21st century to support our digital economy. The existing end-to-end energy and power-delivery system is vulnerable to natural disasters and intentional attacks. With adverse effects on national security, the economy, and the lives of every citizen. For decades, our industry has been dedicated to the secure and reliable operation of the electric system that is fundamental to the national and international economy, security, and quality of life.

But changes in business models, fragmented regulatory oversight and a demand for electricity that is outpacing capacity have left the grid inadequate for the 21st century. The result is an unnecessarily fragile system in which failures cascade to spread outages, cause additional damage and delay restoration.

So in this year and beyond, we are likely to see continued emphasis on 1) value to the customers and stakeholders, 2) Munis/Coops and IOU’s Smart Grid investment/modernization and ROI models in the U.S., 3) Smart Grid investment and technology in the short term will include 3a) Analytics, mining data to increase understanding, 3b) Standards consolidation, and 3c) Increasing penetration of solar and electric vehicles: Demand shifts, integrate new tools and technologies.

With more emphasis for cyber security, business and consumer analytics, with integrating lessons learned from ongoing 100+ implementation projects in the US and numerous ones in EU, China, India, Latin America… aiming at more empowered consumers with smart devices at homes and commercial buildings (to enable every building and every node to become an efficient and smart energy node), with longer-term goals of 1) Developing economies-- electricity for growth and access, 2) Increased reliability and security, 3) Energy efficiency, 4) Environmental sustainability: CO2 emissions, 5) Quality of service: Improve quality indicators and automation, 6) ROI – Benefits-to-Cost Payback, and 7) supportive investment and public policy frameworks.

Erich Gunther is a member of the IEEE Smart Grid Task Force, Chairman of the IEEE Power & Energy Society (PES) Intelligent Grid Coordinating Committee, and IEEE PES Governing Board Member, and Chairman and Chief Technology Officer of EnerNex.

“I am already seeing evidence that in 2013 we will see a significant increase in applications of grid modernization technology that can improve the grid's resiliency to natural and manmade disasters - the so called low probability, high impact events. Recent storms in the northeastern US have shown us that we are increasingly reliant on a continuous supply of electric energy to keep society functioning. Society in general is less tolerant of their favorite powered convenience not working for even short periods of time let alone dealing with the socioeconomic impact of long energy interruptions.

We have to address the issue of increased grid resiliency on several fronts and I see much of that happening this year. We can apply new sensing, communications, and analytical tools on the utility side to better target post event restoration activities. We can implement new crew dispatch, communications, and field situational awareness tools to speed the repair of specific parts of the system. We can develop new concepts for the distribution system like hardened utility microgrids and integrated campus microgrids. Small companies and homeowners have an increasing array of distributed generation and energy storage options available to them to assert their own energy independence and resiliency. Developing new distribution system best design practices to deal with the pervasive deployment of distributed generation goes a long way towards using those sources to improve grid resiliency. I am working with utilities, equipment vendors, and large companies with campus energy systems on all of these fronts right now so I know that the trend is real.”

Steven Collier is an IEEE Smart Grid expert whose broad experience includes being a consultant and executive with energy, telecommunications and information technology companies. He is the vice president of marketing and business development at Milsoft Utility Solutions, and has an ongoing blog on Smart Grid on The Energy Collective.

“It is extremely difficult to single out one thing as the most important development to the grid in 2013. This is in part because the Smart Grid is about decentralization of a once monolithic centralized grid through a proliferation of edge technologies, creating a growing variety of issues, technologies and methods for achieving multifarious, sometimes complementary and sometimes conflicting goals: economy, reliability, security, safety, sustainability, reduced environmental impact, improved customer service. I see several trends that will not only continue but will accelerate in 2013:

1. Increasing numbers intelligent electronic devices (IEDs) will be deployed throughout the sub-transmission and distribution grid for monitoring and control purposes. Centralized SCADA is being supplemented and ultimately supplanted by distributed IEDs including Smart Meters.

2. More vendors will develop and deploy devices and systems that can interconnect and communicate via public wired and wireless Internet, and, similarly, more software that operates in the cloud.

3. There will be increasing realization that voluntary customer demand response will not be adequate for the future (perhaps not even necessary?) as it becomes apparent that most consumers are not willing to endure inconvenience or invest much effort in changing their behavior to reduce the challenges that their electric utility faces. More attention and effort will go toward automated demand management and energy conservation via automated utility distribution management systems and automated consumer energy management systems. For example:

Thermal storage water heaters that to turn on during the periods when energy is cheapest on the grid (not necessarily solely to reduce the peak demand), and that might even be connected via the Internet to day ahead energy markets so as to automatically turn on when energy is the cheapest or turn off when it is most expensive.

More utilities will implement automated voltage monitoring and control to reduce demand, reduce energy consumption and improve power quality for consumer.

Progress will be made in collection, organization and analysis of data from distributed IEDs to facilitate distribution fault anticipation and avoidance rather than the fault detection and restoration that have been the mainstay of the industry until now.

4. There will be significant progress in the creation of the comprehensive, detailed, accurate electric circuit models and computational tools that will be required for active grid management.

5. There will be accelerating interest in the aggregation of automated consumer generation, demand management and energy conservation for participation in structured energy markets. This is already being done by Enernoc in the PJM and will continue to spread across the country.

6. The demand for electric power and energy will continue to explode in the rest of the world outside the developing countries. There are 6+ billion people in the world that want to improve their quality of life and productivity of business the same way that we did, by using more electric power and energy. Currently 15% of the population of the world consumes more than 50% of the world's electric energy and creates a comparable level of environmental impact. As the rest of the world starts to use their share of electric energy, there will be dramatically increased competition for and therefor higher costs and/or less availability of capital, raw materials, manufactured goods, fuel, skilled labor, advanced technologies, environmental impact. And, because we've pretty much "got it made" in the developed countries, there will likely be more innovation in the rest of the world because they have a much greater need for electric energy yet face obstacles and constraints that we didn't.”

John McDonald is an IEEE Fellow, a past president of the IEEE Power & Energy (PES) Society, and past chair of the IEEE PES Substations Committee. He is director of technical strategy and policy development with GE Energy’s Digital Energy Business.

“The most important development for the grid in 2013 is additional real time monitoring and control of the grid.

For the transmission grid, further implementation of phasor measurement units, providing synchrophasor information, to provide value in these areas:

1. Input to the State Estimator software application on the SCADA/EMS for a more accurate state measurement of the grid
2. Input to the Wide Area Measurement System (WAMS)
3. Input to Remedial Action Schemes (RAS)/System Integrated Protection Schemes (SIPS)

For the distribution grid, in the US for example, less than half of the 48,000 distribution substations have any kind of monitoring implemented. Therefore, the electric utility does not know there is an outage until customers call. The utility has large areas of "unobservability" of their distribution grid. The Smart Grid solutions with the strongest business cases are in the distribution system. However, to optimize the operation of the distribution system real-time information is needed on a continuous basis to provide value in these areas:

1. Input to the three phase network model, for both substations and feeders, to support the SCADA/DMS and its applications of Fault Detection, Isolation and Restoration (FDIR), Integrated Volt/VAR Control (IVVC), Optimal Feeder Reconfiguration (OFR), Distribution Power Analysis (DPA), and other applications.
2. Input to the OMS
3. Input to the GIS

The average age of a transformer in the US is 42 years. In the UK it is 38 years. For critical transformers in the grid, real-time monitoring of the health of the transformer will detect problems as soon as they arise so they can be addressed right away and avoid the problem escalating to a catastrophic failure of the transformer and the entire substation.

In summary, there is a need for additional real-time monitoring information from the grid that will provide substantial value to the utility, as seen in the examples given above.”