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Interoperability Is Key to Smart Grid Success

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Interoperability Is Key to Smart Grid Success

NREL engineers provide leadership and support in the development of interoperability standards.

Ever wonder what makes it possible to withdraw money securely from another bank's ATM, or call a friend with a different cell phone provider? The answer is "interoperability" and it refers to the capability of two or more networks, systems, devices, applications, or components to externally exchange and readily use information—securely and effectively. It's what enables communication between banks to allow consumers to withdraw cash at any ATM worldwide and communications between telephone networks to allow consumers to make cell phone calls to anyone on any network.

And just as this two-way communication allows access to money and phone calls nationwide, the Smart Grid—an automated electric power system that monitors and controls grid activities—ensures the two-way flow of electricity and information between power plants and consumers.

Smart Grid Interoperability

Interoperability is one of the greatest challenges facing the Smart Grid as a multitude of technologies, systems, and devices need to securely and effectively talk to each other.

"The very nature of adding information and communications technology to the electric power system grid and seamlessly linking legacy and next-generation systems and applications, making everything work together intelligently and securely is a daunting task, yet critical to the success of the Smart Grid, " said Dick DeBlasio, chief engineer for renewable electricity and end use systems with NREL.

NREL Plugs In Smart Grid Standards

Richard DeBlasio

DeBlasio was recently honored with the 2010 IEEE Charles Proteus Steinmetz Award for exceptional contributions to the development and/or advancement of standards in electrical and electronics engineering. An IEEE Life Senior Member, DeBlasio has been a member of the IEEE Standards Board since 1998.

Early to recognize the need for Smart Grid interoperability, engineers at NREL were the first to lead the way in developing Smart Grid interoperability standards. In May 2009, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) announced an NREL-supported Smart Grid standards development initiative for bringing the power engineering, communications, information technology, and related industries together through the IEEE P2030 Guide for Smart Grid Interoperability of Energy Technology and Information Technology Operation with the Electric Power System (EPS) and End-Use Applications and Loads.

Through decades of support from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), NREL has provided leadership and support for research, testing, and standards development for distributed renewable electric technologies and the electric power systems as far back as 1980, and DeBlasio, from the start, has directed the research and coordination of the DOE/NREL support for IEEE standards development.

"In many ways, early efforts at NREL were the genesis of interoperability and interconnection of distributed renewable technologies with the electric power system and the start of modernizing the electric grid utilizing distributed resources with the publication of the IEEE 1547 Standard for Interconnecting Distributed Resources with Electric Power Systems in 2003," said DeBlasio. "This is what we are now calling the Smart Grid. NREL was, and continues to be, in the forefront of Smart Grid R&D."

The IEEE P2030 guide—published in draft form in March 2011 for commenting, voting, and possible ratification as a standard by IEEE members—provides a knowledge base for understanding and defining Smart Grid interoperability of the electric power system with end-use applications and loads. IEEE P2030 provides a reference model and methodology to use to present interoperable design and implementation alternatives for systems that facilitate data exchange between Smart Grid elements, loads, and end-use applications.

IEEE 1547 has matured into a series of published standards and evolving projects that remain in the forefront and are applicable to existing and ongoing Smart Grid initiatives. Similarly, P2030 is growing into a series of standards that share the common goal of Smart Grid interoperability supported by interrelated and complementary technologies.

Learn more about what NREL is doing in grid modernization research.

The Utility-Scale Future

Spring 2011 / Issue 1

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