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Redefining "Smart Grid"

Smart grid is a term that has been incessantly bandied around for more than 5 years. The origins of this abundantly used term date to at least 2005, when the article "Toward A Smart Grid", authored by S. Massoud Amin and Bruce F. Wollenberg appeared in the September/October issue of IEEE P&E Magazine. Since then, every consultant, operations technologist and information technologist has been slinging around this word with relentless fervor, ad nauseam.

337_1.jpgAs we pass the fifth anniversary, an anniversary traditionally marked with gifts of silver or wood, we will instead explore redefining this term for a new era of smart grid. There are five main points of the re-defined smart grid, unheralded in the first iteration.

Shift from smart meter to smart grid, the enablement of the microgrid

  • The original envisioning of smart grid included a costly overhaul of infrastructure, digital enablement of existing assets and incorporation of new technology. After the costly investment into AMI, the push for infrastructure has slowed due to cost recovery. The focus on end-to-end technology enablement has lead to limited microgrids. The vision of smart grid will take the form of localized generation, energy storage and loads that are better facilitated and returns measured.

Growth of universal solutions and mid-market

  • The major investor owned utilities (and select visionary smaller utilities) paved the way with regard to smart grid rollouts and pilots. These utilities created the business case and have showcased both the upside and pitfalls of smart grid. Now armed with knowledge, smaller municipalities, co-ops and mid-market utilities will deploy scaled pilots to provide benefits across the majority of the market. With the growth of this market, there will be a demand for scalable technology solutions with limited capital investment that can be spread across a smaller rate paying population.

Importance of secure communication infrastructure

  • Again the most important aspect of the utilities landscape is providing reliable power. This reliability is hinged on not only providing service but also providing reliability through security at the device, home area network and back-haul network. As smaller and mid-market utilities, as well as larger investor owned utilities, face these challenges a large portion of the next stage of smart grid will focus on compliance and strength.

Responsibility of the full spectrum of premises as opposed to the home

  • The first vision of smart grid was sold as a consumer enablement. Realistically, the future of smart grid focuses on the commercial customer as opposed to the home. Management of the home utility network has limited returns while commercial consumption not only creates returns that hit the P/L but can create focused opportunities for utilities to focus on grid health and load management. Demand response has already created

Simplifying operations management

  • Prior to the recent technology push, operations professionals relied on tried and true practices that spanned nearly 100 years. With the availability of sensor arrays, load management tools, outage management software and digitized assets at the premise level, operations professionals are bombarded by complicated interfaces and valuable information. For any of these professionals to do their job, they require integrated, real-time dashboards to drive real-time business decisions. The future of distribution automation and the self-healing network relies on real-time decision making.

The future of smart grid looks but bright, but is hinged on significantly different values than the smart grid of 2005.

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