Year in Review and What’s Next in 2018

By Massoud Amin

In 2017, IEEE Smart Grid continued to have another banner year by every measure, thanks to efforts of a superb team. Together we serve as the go-to resource, with expertise in all aspects related to grid modernization, from local to national and global assessments, from microgrids and technologies, to policy impacts and return of investments, from engineering and optimization of the power grid to smart villages.

This year, as always, I'm especially thankful for you — colleagues, students (at every level K-postdoctoral), researchers, professionals, analysts, policy makers, the broader stakeholders and friends (more than 150,000 members, and growing, in over 192 nations and territories we serve) — of the IEEE Smart Grid Initiative. The passion you show and work you do on a daily basis to advance progress is a blessing that serves a community far greater than our own. It crosses borders and oceans and lays the foundation for future generations. I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it.

Our Vision – The Why?

IEEE Smart Grid Initiative brings together IEEE’s broad array of technical societies and organizations through collaboration to encourage the successful rollout of technologically advanced, environment-friendly and secure smart grid networks around the world.

Our Mission – The What?

  • Together, we serve as a Credible and Authoritative Voice for smart grid knowledge globally through our focus on organizing, coordinating, and leveraging the strength of 14 societies and many more entities in IEEE with smart grid expertise and interest.
  • Together we Increase Value through collaborative partnerships with IEEE organizational units, their members and the public at large through tools that effectively meet, anticipate, and exceed their needs.

Our Strategies – The How?

  • Engage: Via Knowledge - Create, promote and disseminate interdisciplinary smart grid knowledge ensuring IEEE’s organizational units and members are leaders in the profession, the industry, and their communities.
  • Enable: Via Collaboration - Align resources and empower IEEE organizational units, members, and allied professionals to build teamwork.
  • Empower: Via Communication - Elevate the voice of IEEE organizational units and members to promote the value of their work in the smart grid field and to enhance the public’s understanding of the importance of the smart grid. Via Advocacy - Advance smart grid policies through outreach, education and engagement that are responsive to the public and the profession.

Looking Back in 2017 and earlier: We live in very promising times. Technology is empowered by people relying on the power of ideas directed by committed, focused action, which has been shaping our lives. The 20th Century, in particular, marked a period of technology triumphs. Electrification, telecommunications, and the internet, fast and efficient transportation, modern medicine, scientific agriculture, and other advances changed—and continue to change—the conditions of human life all around the globe. In little more than 100 years, the average human lifespan nearly doubled. Many times greater still have been the new opportunities and possibilities technology affords to each individual during their lifetime. It is clear that technology and its effective management is a major driving force in shaping global society.

Norm Augustine, the former CEO of Lockheed Martin, and a passionate supporter of research and development in higher education, put it this way: "If you happen to find yourself on an airplane that is losing altitude, and if you have to throw out things to cut weight (…) the absolute last thing you would throw out is the engine. (…) We must invest to keep our engine running".

We have witnessed only a few drops of the waves of innovation addressing pressing human, life, and societal challenges. Many may remember Austrian Economist Schumpeter’s idea that technology is a series of explosions. In just the last 225 years these include: steam power, textiles, railroads, iron, coal, construction, electrical power, automobiles, chemicals, steel, aerospace, pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, synthetic and composite materials, information technology, medical technology, genetics, alternative energy, artificial intelligence, the material sciences, and nanotechnology – all progress critically dependent on reliable, efficient, affordable, secure, and resilient electrical systems.

Looking Forward in 2018 and beyond: From where will the next set of breakthroughs come? Don Randel, a former president of the University of Chicago, said it best: “The ultimate foundation of any society ought to be the human imagination, honed to the greatest degree and in the company of its faithful companion . . . curiosity.” I agree. In this era, ideas and what you do with them can be much more transformative than material forces that dominated previous periods of economic growth. As you know, information technology (IT), automation, analytics and a lot more are dominant forces - medical technology and genetics have already played and will continue to play important roles. Alternative sustainable energies are now a reality – a slow but steady and massive global energy transition has been underway for the last 10-15 years. Other areas include artificial intelligence, increasing security while maintaining or increasing civil liberties, material sciences (including nanotechnology), and much more, have the potential to transform our civilization. There is increased consciousness on the need for core technologies and capabilities that strategically enhance our security and quality of life. The future is bright if we make a conscious choice and are committed and resolute.

So how do we envision the smart grid in the next 2-5 years and beyond, enabling (and enabled by) secure IoT, smart cities, new energy technologies, electric transportation, and a lot more?

The smart grid is an international priority, with needs varying from country to country. Our goal is to leverage our partnership with the entire IEEE community and beyond. We welcome collaboration from colleagues around the world, from those involved in sensing, instrumentation and communications technologies; computer science; power and energy; controls and automation; industrial internet and IoT; and markets and policy; to those involved in broader environmental, smart cities, transportation, and quality of life issues.

You are a valued member of our IEEE family, and without each of you, we would not be able to accomplish our lofty goal of powering progress, modernizing power and energy infrastructures, and making a positive difference through innovation, partnership, collaboration, strategy, and leadership.

While industry has undergone significant evolution in the past twenty years, much more is yet to come throughout the world.

Global movements toward smart grid development are significantly expanding the potential positive impacts that we can make together with a wider engagement. These movements are occurring across a wide socio-economic technological canvas, and taking the shape of several multifaceted global drivers stemming from various sources. There are five major drivers for the development of the smart grid.

  1. The first of these drivers is environmental stewardship. Although various scenarios are being suggested for the smart grid, a common picture still seems to emerge: electricity will play a much greater role in the global society than it does today in coming decades. It is impossible to anticipate whether an oil peak will come (since new discoveries have occurred repeatedly), to what extent shale gas will prove viable, or whether and when carbon capture and storage (CCS) will be commercialized. However, all of these firmly underscore the need for green energy and decarbonization.
    Worldwide, the main driver for development of the smart grid is decarbonization. The European Union, for instance, has reinforced its commitment, by 2050, to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of the power sector to 80% to 95% of the levels that existed in the 1990s. Instead of resource scarcity or technology limitations, society’s future energy choices will likely be dominated by environmental constraints and compliance with local, national, and global initiatives directly related to these issues. Over the next 25 years, substantial progress will almost certainly be achieved in improving our understanding of key environmental issues, and in using electricity innovations to resolve them.
  2. While decarbonization is a major trend in countries such as the U.S., China, India, as well as the EU, developing countries face a different challenge: of ensuring reliable and affordable power in the face of an explosive growth in demand. This, together with aging infrastructures, represents the second major driver.
  3. The third driver that necessitates large changes in grid infrastructure is the possibility of a significant increase in electrified transportation. Uncertainties in the fossil fuel scene are spurring large advances in electric vehicles, both for personal and for mass transit. The transportation sector in the US, for example, consumes two-thirds of the total oil used. Hence, a move away from hydrocarbon-based propulsion and towards electric ones is yet another major driver.
  4. The fourth driver is the emergence of an empowered consumer, made possible through a combination of technological, social, and behavioral changes, all of which will allow loads to be responsive to the grid’s needs. In several places across the globe, such demand-response may be the only available asset to cope with unprecedented growth in the demand.
  5. The final driver towards development of the Smart Grid is a globally pervasive set of changes in the regulatory paradigms and market designs in the energy domain.

To put all this in perspective over the next year, even over the next five to ten years and beyond, our industry will continue to face some major challenges in forward thinking and many opportunities that will require action, as key challenges and opportunities persist, which include:

  • Drastically improved information management and high-confidence analytics; e.g., leveraging and enabling internet of things and smart cities.
  • Deep understanding of technologies to be deployed, business impacts, regulatory blockers and accelerators, locally, nationally, and globally.
  • The need to integrate better feedback loops into standards, and to close these loops where they have never been closed before. I believe we need an answer to determine whether the standards are sufficient for reliable operations – preventing cascading events.
  • To elevate our focus towards resiliency and restoration in the future. As examples, pivotal areas of cyber-physical security and risk-based “all-hazard” resiliency will continue to face emerging threats and realistic/proactive countermeasures will continue to grow. E.g., there is an opportunity for fast start power to be located around major regions, or across a nation. What is the best mix and placement? Where applicable, can it be made as a part of the rate base? When needed can they be deployed within a few hours? In a day or so?
  • Renewables integration, fair and transparent cost/benefit allocations, e.g., solar on the roof not paying for their transmission costs).
  • Storage, increasing in North America and globally.

I conclude this column by remembering Mary Oliver’s approach to poetry (seamless from her approach to life and to faith). One section within the poem “Sometimes” sums up all three. Instructions for living a life: “Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” That’s why I’m asking you to help us move progress forward through smarter and more secure and efficient infrastructures that underpin our civilization and quality of life, and to tell your wonderful stories through any of our eight communication channels at the IEEE Smart Grid. I’m asking you to help me to instill pride, based on evidence – YOU – in this great eight-year-old and highly impactful initiative, not only among the technical/professional communities we serve in, but among every citizen in our neighborhoods, cities, states, nations, and beyond.

On the flip side, this position of leadership can’t be taken for granted; we all witnessed more sophisticated cyberattacks during this past year – so many lives lost and affected by unprecedented destructive forces of hurricanes, storms and fires – and a lot more. Stressors and destabilizers persist and evolve. We must put deliberate mechanisms, resilient designs/testing/deployments, diversity, workforce development, and funding in place to nurture and grow our many areas of strength. Energy and smart grid technology development, management and its impact on societies around the globe are immense. “The empires of the future,” said Winston Churchill, “are the empires of the mind.” Echoing this in his 1981 book, Investing in People: The Economics of Population Quality, Economist and Nobel Laureate, Theodore Schultz, argued that the wealth of nations is not limited by land or minerals, it comes predominantly from “the acquired abilities of people, their education, experience, skills and health.”

Together, we can fulfill the “Why? What? How” noted above, and our collective extraordinary promise. Wrapped in traditions of excellence and service, lifted by know-how, driven by our shared desire to fulfill our great promise of powering progress. We have much work to do.

Together we continue to grow the collaborative nature of the IEEE Smart Grid and welcome your increased participation and engagement.

Please visit the IEEE Smart Grid Portal to learn more about how you can get involved. If you are interested in participating in any way, please contact us. Lights ahead.

With gratitude and warmest regards,

Massoud Amin
Chairman, IEEE Smart Grid


Special thanks:

We would like to acknowledge the committed work of the IEEE Smart Grid Committee members from across our 14 partner organizational units for their involvement and active participation including IEEE Communications Society; IEEE Computer Society; IEEE Control Systems Society; IEEE Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation Society; IEEE Industrial Applications Society; IEEE Industry Electronics Society; IEEE Instrumentation & Measurement Society; IEEE Power Electronics Society; IEEE Power & Energy Society; IEEE Reliability Society; IEEE Signal Processing Society; IEEE Standards Association; IEEE Systems, Man, and Cybernetics Society; and IEEE Vehicular Technology Society.

We would also like to acknowledge and thank our committee chairs and key team members for their leadership and service in 2017 including: Dr. Ebrahim Vaahedi of the IEEE Smart Grid Publications Committee with Dr. Panayiotis Moutis and Ms. Julie Compton; Dr. Peter Wung of the IEEE Smart Grid Research & Development Committee; Mr. Steven Collier of the IEEE Smart Grid Education Committee; Mr. Joseph Paladino and Dr. Veronika Rabl of the IEEE Smart Grid Policy Technical Support Committee; outgoing co-chairs Mr. Mark Halpin and Dr. Stefano Galli of the IEEE Smart Grid Technical Activities Committee, and welcoming the incoming chair Mr. Satish Saini. Last, but not least, I would like to thank Ms. Angie Rajski, Ms. Phyllis Caputo, the 20-member IEEE Smart Grid Steering Committee, Mr. Pat Ryan, Dr. Damir Novosel, and our numerous IEEE member volunteers and staff who have helped make things happen!

For a downloadable copy of the December 2017 eNewsletterwhich includes this article, please visit the IEEE Smart Grid Resource Center




Dr. Massoud Amin, IEEE Fellow, is Director of the Technological Leadership Institute (TLI). He holds the Honeywell/H.W. Sweatt Chair, is a professor of electrical & computer engineering (ECE), and a University Distinguished Teaching Professor Award Recipient at the University of Minnesota. He is Chairman of the IEEE Smart Grid, a Fellow of ASME and, from June 2010 to August 2017, was a member of the Texas Reliability Entity (as board chairman), a utility industry regional entity that oversees reliability. From January 2013 to August 2017, he also served as a board member of the Midwest Reliability Organization.

Before joining the University of Minnesota in March 2003, Dr. Amin was with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in Palo Alto, Calif. He pioneered R&D in smart grids in 1998, and led the development of 24 technologies that transferred to industry. After 9/11, he directed all security-related R&D for U.S. utilities. He has led research, development, and deployment of smart grids, and the enhancement of critical infrastructures’ security during this period. He is considered the father of the smart grid.

At EPRI he received several awards including six EPRI Performance Recognition Awards for leadership in three areas, the 2002 President’s Award for the Infrastructure Security Initiative, and twice received the Chauncey Award, the Institute’s highest honor.

He has been recognized by his alma maters, receiving the 2011 Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award at Washington University, and the 2013 Outstanding Senior Alumni Award at the University of Massachusetts. He was the inaugural Thought Leader of the Year, Energy Thought Summit 2015 (ETS '15); inducted into the University of Minnesota’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers (2008); President’s Award for the Infrastructure Security Initiative, EPRI (2002) twice - received the Chauncey Award, EPRI; Professor of the Year, Washington University in St. Louis (1992-1995). He is the author of more than 200 peer-reviewed publications, editor of seven collections of manuscripts, and served on the editorial boards of six academic journals.

In summary, Dr. Amin’s professional contributions have primarily been in three areas:

  1. defense networks, combat & logistics systems - C4I (1982-1997)
  2. modernization, efficiency, security & resilience of interdependent national critical infrastructures, including power, energy, communications, finance, and transportation (1997-present), and
  3. technology/business/policy foresight & strategy (1997-present).

Dr. Amin holds B.S. (cum laude), and M.S. degrees in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and M.S. and D.Sc. degrees in systems science and mathematics from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

View Dr. Amin's personal and faculty websites.

Past Issues

To view archived articles, and issues, which deliver rich insight into the forces shaping the future of the smart grid. Older Bulletins (formerly eNewsletter) can be found here. To download full issues, visit the publications section of the IEEE Smart Grid Resource Center.

IEEE Smart Grid Bulletin Editors

IEEE Smart Grid Bulletin Compendium

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