At DistribuTECH 2015, Raiford Smith of CPS Energy and Jason P. Handley of Duke Energy, presented their perspectives on the smart grid; what is motivating it in terms of business and technology drivers, a roadmap for implementing it at their utilities, and the benefits that are expected from it for customers and for utilities. They also outlined a smart grid architecture based on open standards to enable seamless interoperability that enables distributed as opposed to centralized intelligence. Some of the advantages of a distributed architecture are scalability, reduced latency and implementing security at the grid edge instead of via the central control application.
Megatrends driving smart grid
Raiford Smith sees four major megatrends that are major motivating forces behind the smart grid. Moore's Law means there are intelligent devices for power networks with greater capabilities and at less cost. Metcalfe's Law means more interconnections and greater interoperability. Big data analytics means the ability to extract more meaningful information and insights from rapidly increasing volumes of data coming from thousands and even millions of intelligent devices. Distributed energy generation (DER) means more complicated power management - balancing intermittent generation and new load profiles from an increasing number of new electronic devices.
From a business perspective a major benefit is greater customer choice. In the future the customer will be able to not only manage his/her consumption of power, but also its generation. With rooftop solar PV and batteries the customer may elect to not even be on the grid, but to create his/her own microgrid. But it also means the utility business model will have to evolve from what it has been for the past 100 years. New York is one of the jurisdictions that is already changing its regulatory framework to enable utilities to move to a new business model.
As an aside, at this year's DistribuTECH if there was one technology that seemed to be everywhere and on almost every utility's radar, it is microgrids. Duke Energy is even playing with the idea of offering microgrids as a service.
Technology roadmap for the smart grid
From Raiford Smith's perspective the technology roadmap for the smart grid involves the deployment of increasing numbers of intelligent electronic devices for sensing and for control. The challenge is federating the data from all of these devices, extracting information from it, and dispatching the information to the right control devices. From an architectural perspective this drives the need for a field message bus which enables interoperability between different devices from different vendors. It also requires a common semantic model, such as the Common Information Model (CIM), adding security at the edge of the grid in addition to the central control room, and analytics to extract information from the huge volume of data collected from the sensors.
To test different smart grid configurations, CPS Energy is assembling a test facility for a three year smart grid testing program. It will have 30,000 customers, 15 circuits, solar generation, smart inverters, battery storage and the ability to disconnect from the grid to form a microgrid.
Benefits of the smart grid
Raiford expects major benefits for customers and for the utility from implementing a smart grid. For customers, perhaps the biggest benefit is that the smart grid avoids divergence of utility services and customers needs. Sometimes referred to as disaggregation, in this context it means a 3rd party coming between a utility and its customers. Historical examples are Microsoft Hohm and Google Powermeter which were perceived as threats because utilities found the idea of a Microsoft or Google insinuating itself between the utility and its customers unattractive. Opower is an example of a different approach that is much more attractive to utilities. Instead of doing an end-run around the utility, Opower focussed on the utility as their direct customer. Services using Opower's solutions is then offered by the utility to its customers.
Secondly, smart grid provides a flexible foundation for providing new services to customers (which also creates new sources of revenue for utilities). Raiford suggested some examples including electric vehicles and charging, premium (high quality) power, premium reliability, and asset control (for ex, inverters and batteries) and advanced demand response (the utility would provide these as a service to customers, rather than customers buying these devices from a 3rd party). The result is greater customer satisfaction and improved brand recognition as CPS Energy is perceived as a leader in providing new and improved services to customers.
The benefits that Raiford sees for utilities are equally important. They include improved operational metrics (SAIDI, SAIFI, asset utilization), better financial metrics (O&M spend, revenue generation), environmental benefits, improved safety, better trained and skilled staff, and more reliable risk modeling (better predictions of revenue, costs, customer satisfaction, and asset condition).
Probably the greatest challenge Raiford sees is managing organizational change, because the smart grid will mean that just about everything will change including the utility business model and most aspects of how we design, build, maintain and operate the grid.
Jason Handley, of the Emerging Technology Office at Duke Energy, reviewed some of the major drivers for industry change. Many applications currently used by power utilities are proprietary, with the result that the utility has many application silos that don't interoperate. The rapid adoption of DERs is requiring utilities to move toward faster response times, reduced costs, better safety, and improved reliability. Dynamic load management and low voltage power electronics will mean greater adoption of rooftop PVs and other DERs. Increasingly utilities will invest in standards-based, modular systems for hardware, multi-function devices, and a field message bus for software that will enable interoperability. From a business perspective broader interoperability facilitates more competition which lowers costs, encourages innovation and improves reliability.
Other important drivers that Jason sees that are impacting utilities include demand response, electric vehicles, in-premise automation, cybersecurity threats, aging infrastructure, big data complexity, and avoiding stranded assets. The smart grid is requiring utilities to change how they do things. Utilities realize they have to be more proactive in their operations, rather than waiting for something to happen and then reacting to it. Situational awareness has become a critical capability for utilities in enabling utilities to be more proactive. It is made possible by having a variety of sensors in the field that together can present a snapshot of the status of the grid. The key functionality required to enable this to happen is seamless interoperability.
As utilities implement thousands and even millions of smart devices in the field, a centralized architecture runs into scalability and latency problems. Duke's solution is an architecture with distributed as opposed to centralized intelligence. Duke sees this as comprised of layers so that with this architecture, not all data needs to go to the central control application. Some can be handled at lower levels. A self healing network is an example where a problem can be handled locally without the central control application knowing anything about it. Distributed intelligence also enables fast edge decisions that can be made without waiting for the central control application. For example, an advantage that cannot be underestimated with this architecture is that it enables security at the edge of the grid, not just via the central control application. Based on this concept Duke has defined a Distributed Intelligence Platform (DIP) Reference Architecture designed to take advantage of the tremendous intelligence that is out in the field in addition to the intelligence in the control centre.
Duke Energy, CPS Energy and 25 vendors, called the Coalition of the Willing (COW) have just embarked on an implementation of this architecture that supports a microgrid. The smart grid requires exchanging data between different devices from different manufacturers in the field. Traditional utility technologies are very often vendor silos utilizing proprietary hardware, telecommunications and software platforms. The goal of the “Coalition of the Willing" (COW) is to demonstrate that data and control commands can be shared across multiple vendor platforms (typically proprietary) to achieve interoperability with lower costs and faster response times. A key part of the demonstration is an open standard field message bus implemented as an open source project. The Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) has created an OpenFMB working group to support this effort.