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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Standards for Standards

Interoperability is the capability of two or more networks, systems, devices, applications, or components to share and readily use information securely and effectively with little or no inconvenience to the user. What makes a standard interoperable?
Layered Architecture
The Smart Grid should have a layered architecture. Layering is a winning principle of Internet development: Technologies develop independently at their own layer, at their own speed. Generality: each layer is an occasion for interface design, inviting generality. Standard interfaces and technologies can be developed and interchanged.

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Back to Network/ Interoperability Index

1. Background
2. Acronyms/Definitions
3. Business Case
4. Benefits
5. Risks/Issues
6. Next Steps
7. Links


  • It is now hard to imagine ATM cards that only worked at one bank instead of every bank, but that was the case at first. Now, each bank can have its own internal security and proprietary system in place, but with the open standards developed by the banking industry use one ATM card can withdraw or deposit funds from almost anywhere in the world. Similarly, it is hard to imagine cell phone customers who could not speak to any other cell phone company customer or land line. If each cell phone company prevented the free flow of the signals from one cell phone system to the other, the telecom technology boom of the last quarter century would have been seriously impaired.

  • Priority areas for Smart Grid Standards identified by the DOE include:
    1. Demand response
    2. Wide-area situational awareness
    3. Electric storage
    4. Electric transportation
    5. Advanced metering
    6. Distribution grid management
    7. Cyber security
    8. Data networking

2. Acronyms/Definitions

  1. Architecture - Philosoply and structural patterns encompassing technical and business designs, demonstrations, implementations, and standards that, together, convey a common understanding of the Smart Grid. The architecture embodies high-level principles and requirements that designs of Smart Grid Applications must satisfy.
  2. Composition - Building of complex interfaces from simpler ones.
  3. Extensibility - Enables adding new functions or modifying existing ones
  4. Interoperability - The capability of two or more networks, systems, devices, applications, or components to exchange and readily use information - securely, effectively, and with little or no inconvenience to the user. The Smart Grid will be a system of interoperable systems. That is, different systems will be able to exchange meaningful, actionable information. The systems will share a common meaning of the exchanged information, and this information will elicit agreed upon types of response. The reliabilty, fidelity, and security of information exchanges between and among Smart Grid systems much acheive requisite performation levels.
  5. Layers Systems - Separates functions, with each layer providing services to the layer above and receiving services from the layer below.
  6. Loose Coupling - A flexible platform that can support valid bilateral and multilateral transactions without elaborate pre-arrangement
  7. OSI Model - Open Systems Interconnection Reference Model - Sometimes called the seven layer model- An abstract description for layered communications and computer network protocol design. In its most basic form, it divides network architecture into seven layers which, from top to bottom, are the Application, Presentation, Session, Transport, Network, Data-Link, and Physical Layers. A layer is a collection of conceptually similar functions that provide services to the layer above it and receives service from the layer below it. Understanding and applying layering helps avoid placing unnecessary restrictions on one layer because of the implementation of adjacent layers.
    1. The physical layer is the media by which bits are exchanged.
    2. The data link layer (e.g., media access control or MAC) is where the exchange of frames (many bits) is performed.
    3. The network layer is the level where paths are determined and logical addressing is applied for packets (many frames).
    4. The Transport layer forms end-to-end connections and segments (many packets) are exchanged.
    5. The session layer deals with inter-host communication.
    6. The presentation layer deals with data representation and encryption.
    7. The application layer is the level at which interaction with a user is attained
  8. Shallow Integration - Does not require detailed mutual information to interact with other managed or configured components.
  9. Standards - Specifications that establish the fitness of a product for a particular use or that define the function and performance of a device or system. Standards are key facilitators of compatibility and interoperability. They define specification for languages, communication protocols, data formats, linkages within and across systems, interfaces between software applications and between hardware devices. Standards must be robust so that they can be extended to accomodate future applications and technologies..
  10. Symmetry - Bi-directional flows of energy and information
  11. Transparency - Transparent and auditable chain of transactions

3. Business Case

  1. Interoperability - When a new device is added to the system, interoperability will enable it to register itself in the grid upon installation, communicate its capabilities to neighboring systems, and cause the connectivity database and control algorithms to update themselves automatically.
    Evidence from other industries indicates that interoperability generates tangible cost savings and intangible benefits amounting to 0.3%–4% in cost savings or avoided construction. In the electric power industry, that could result in a net benefit of up to $12.6 billion per year. Interoperability has three main stages:
    • Communications - The message “packet” travels through the network correctly…right place/time and is capable of being understood by the application.
    • Applications (aka inter-workability) - The contents of the packet are understood and the correct actions are performed by the application in the required time frame.
    • Scenario - Applications/devices exchange and act upon “metadata” to perform system administration tasks… “plug and work” Emphasizes the pragmatic business and policy aspects of interoperation, especially pertaining to the management of electricity.
  2. Cyber Security is critical and must be managed over the life-cycle of the systems deployed. Cyber security is fundamentally about managing risk. Security must be commensurate with the vulnerabilities and exposures from any given application. Security must be considered at the time the application requirements are being developed since the domain experts are in the best position to understand what is at stake.
  3. Loose Coupling is a design tenet for scalable, high performance architectures, used in enterprise software and device component design today. Loosely coupled standards enable shallow integration of diverse technologies will be required for smart grid interoperability and to support diversity and innovation.
  4. Shallow integration, driven by the requirement for minimum knowledge, extends the reach of each standard, and enhances the value of composition. The market operations and load curtailment for (say) electricity and natural gas might be the same. Management.
  5. Symmetry is the principle that each action can run both ways: buyers of power at one moment can be sellers at the next. Symmetry is a fundamental characteristic of Net Zero Energy buildings. Integrating Distributed Energy Resources need attention to symmetry for energy flow and management.
  6. Transparency goes hand in hand with symmetry and the emergence of options in every market. Do you want to buy a certain class of power as part of a carbon strategy, in a multiparty marketplace? There needs to be a transparent and auditable chain of transactions showing that the markets actually cleared in each class of power.
  7. Seams – The boundaries between adjacent electricity related organizations. Differences in regulatory requirements, operating practices or data definitions may create seams problems.
  8. Decreasing Latency - Since many grid applications cannot tolerate delays between transmission and reception
  9. Upgradability - Making meters remotely upgradeable so they won't go obsolete as quickly
  10. Minimum Standards - For all devices and networks

Enterprise Systems, Communications and Layers in a Smart Grid Deployment

4. Benefits

  • Compatibility - Avoid incompatible systems being fielded that result in costly replacements ahead of projections.
  • Competition - Foster open access, competition and commercial growth of new technologies that offer energy consumers new ways to meet their energy needs while at the same time saving them money.
  • Cost - Standards focus investment to lower costs, to increase value through connectivity.
  • Innovation - Serendipity is encouraged, innovation accelerated.

5. Risks/Issues
  • Testing - Standardization does not always result in interoperability. Unless the scope of a standard includes interoperability tests or guidelines, at best a technology would be in compliance with the standard. A dedicated user’s community needs to be tasked to identify interoperability requirements, write tests to validate products, and certify those results.
  • False Analogy - The Smart Grid is different than the Internet:
    • The network must be absolutely reliable
    • Endpoints must be much lower cost
    • Device hardware can’t be upgraded often
    • Can’t just ignore very rural customers
    • Need security all the time, not just sometimes
  • Maturity - Applications are still being defined. The degree of openness and the balance with security concerns for the smart grid's communication and networking infrastructure still needs to be determined.
  • Complexity - The number of stakeholders, range of considerations and applicable standards are very large and complex. The smart grid implementation has already started, and will be implemented as an “evolution” of successive projects over a decade or more.
  • Monopoly Power - The old AT&T and IBM monopolies tended to move all their proprietary layers in lock step, which is one reason they were left behind.
  • Stranded Asset - Legacy equipment that is rendered obsolete or uneconomical to operate. But it’s possible that we are in the process of stranding many new assets by installing them now, before standards are in place.

6. Success Factors
  • Mature specifications
  • Involved user group
  • Certification process
  • Revision process
  • Marketing, labeling
  • Implementations
  • Tool sets
  • Agreement on:
    • What information is to be exchanged?
    • What is the data to be named?
    • Who is permitted to talk?
    • What frequencies and signals are used?
    • What the connector looks like?

7. Links
  1. Smart Grid: A Beginner's Guide by NIST - A readable and jargon-free rundown on the basics of smart grid and standards. No lengthy descriptions of synchrophasor technology or meter data management, just the nuts and bolts of what smart grid is and why standards are such a key part of it.
  2. Smart Grid News – An Idiot’s Guide to Standards
  3. GridWise Architecture Council Interoperability Checklist

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