Smart Grid Communications and Security

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Written by Doug Houseman


Welcome to the September issue of the Smart Grid Newsletter. It is my pleasure and honor to edit this edition.

Having been involved in what we now call “smart grid” or grid modernization since the 1980s one piece has always frustrated and slowed the effort to build our grid of the future, that is enough bandwidth to support the communications and control that supports the operation of the grid. This is especially true at the distribution level, which is the portion of the grid that connects the bulk power system to the customers. With billions of end points around the world, and the number growing from rooftop photovoltaics, storage systems, electric vehicles, and building energy management systems, the need to send and receive more information to manage the grid is growing rapidly. Bandwidth and latency are two critical factors in monitoring and controlling the distribution grid. In the 1990s most of the distribution grid was autonomous, and meters were read by meter readers walking their routes with a clipboard. This began to really change with ENEL’s installation of 27 million automated meter readers in Italy. From there more than 700 million automated meters have been installed globally, using all sorts of communication. Joining the meters are distribution automation devices like reclosers, controllable capacitor banks, voltage regulators, and other equipment. Today more than 1 billion end points on the distribution grid report their status. By 2050 that number will probably pass 2 billion, with the deployment of more Photovoltaics, storage, and electric vehicles.

Written by Jeff Casey

Utilities understand the concept of prudence. In a capital-intensive industry, mistakes and errors can cost utilities thousands — sometimes millions — of dollars. They can also present setbacks in achieving goals such as improving reliability, lowering the cost of service, or enabling commitments to a renewable future.

That’s why utilities historically have benefited from pilot programs and system testing. As the industry increasingly moves toward large-scale deployments of Private LTE (PLTE) as a foundational and unified wireless network for all of its applications, the concept of piloting is being examined like never before.

Written by Don W. Gawf

Technology vendors and major carriers are selling products and services that aren’t necessarily aligned with what utilities fundamentally require. Not surprisingly, this has created confusion between spectrum, technology naming conventions and much more.

Navigating the details of today’s technology standards and spectrum options (i.e., available channel bandwidth per frequency band and standards-based bandwidth requirements) will require asking the right questions. The goal is to identify the optimal design solution to fit your utility’s requirements.

Written by Matt Morris and Carmen Garibi

Industries in every sector are bringing critical infrastructure online, enabling remote access. While this step undoubtedly enables greater operational efficiency and innovation, it nevertheless exposes operational technology (OT) systems to a greater range of cyberthreats.

If this digital transformation is to continue in the industrial space, security solutions must do better at future-proofing this infrastructure. OT cyberthreats will continue to increase. The question becomes: What can be done without exposing ourselves to greater risk?

Written by Doug Houseman

How can knowing what bandwidth you need help plan your backhaul network?

Bandwidth has been the limiting factor in what data we can retrieve from equipment in the field and how often it can be retrieved. Most deployed meters operate on a record every 30 seconds or 1 minute but aggregate that to 15 minute or 60-minute reads and send those reads 1 to 6 times a day. In many cases voltage and demand are not sent, even though they are measured, because of bandwidth issues. That was perfectly fine for a billing purpose, but not so good for operations, especially when we start to look at also metering rooftop (and other generation), vehicle chargers and responsive loads. Residential storage is another item to not only monitor but manage as well.

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.

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IEEE Smart Grid Bulletin Compendium

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