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What Makes a Grid Smart?

Well, that’s a stupid question…..or is it? We hear about more “smart grid” technologies and applications on a regular basis. It is one of the most common subjects in the industry these days. Does that mean all grids are smart? Are they all equally smart or do some have PhD’s while others have associate degrees?

Penton Media, T&D World’s parent company, has conducted a lot of research in conjunction with ABB and other industry giants that is revealing or possibly reminding us of what is behind smart grid technology and the extent of its implementation. I’ll share some tidbits I’ve picked up in this column.

Most of us think of smart grids as T&D modernization efforts to incorporate digital technology that facilitates the collection, processing and exchange of information allowing interoperability and communication between connected devices. That is all true. There is a much longer official definition of the smart Grid in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007(see the Wikipedia version here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_Independence_and_Security_Act_of_2007). The term defined in the law encompasses reliability, flexibility, efficiency, renewables, security and more.

So, what is behind the mysterious smart grid curtain? Well, we can definitively conclude it is not just a device or piece of electronic equipment that makes the grid smart. It is the combination of the piece of equipment or hardware and properly developed, coordinated and installed information and operation technology software that instills the smarts. That last step, the creation and/or application of functional, flexible, growth accommodating integration software, is performed by us….so it may sound a little corny, but it is we who make the smart grid smart.

Gene Wolf with T&D World Magazine wrote a masterful article regarding the ongoing evolution of the smart grid, its relationship to the Internet of Things (IoT) and now, the Internet of Things, Services and People (IoTSP).

People are referring to IoTSP, a recent phase of the evolution, where exchanges occur not only between machines, but also between customers and third parties in a market environment as “transactive energy” enablers. New York and several other states have developed or are working on policies for this new frontier of the distribution system platform provider (DSPP).

So we see the evolution of the grid occurring at a break-neck speed. This is the future. But, what if our utility or co-op is not on board yet? Not everyone is. Jason Dedrick from the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University recently shared survey results that reveal not all muni’s, co-ops and investor owned utilities he surveyed have implemented a large number of grid-side technologies, even the most common one which arguably is advanced meter infrastructure. Some entities are still studying the cost-benefits, evaluating their ability to recover the investment in rates or are held back by issues such as NERC-CIP v5 compliance or the perceived level of maturity of the technology. Accordingly, all grids are not smart, not yet anyway.

Likewise, Dedrick’s research shows us not all grids are equally smart. Some utilities have implemented numerous smart grid technologies, while others have implemented fewer technologies or implemented to a lesser extent. The following slide from a presentation by Professor Dedrick shows the level of deployment of various smart grid technologies.

Read full article at T&D World