Article Post

The devil's in the data details

Community in talk bubble

THE SMART GRID IS A SYSTEM-OF-SYSTEMS PROBLEM BOTH deep and wide, demanding solutions across power distribution and power storage, computing and-with implementation of data in and data out everywhere throughout the electrical-delivery system-data management and control.

Billions and billions of data points will be processed instantaneously in the next-generation smart grid, rendering the management and control of that data an overwhelming proposition. Among the primary drivers of new data volume for utilities will be plug-and-play devices across home area networks (HANs) that link into the smart grid via advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) gateways, as well as new distributed-generation power sources.

Optimization, simplification, manipulation and coordination in management and control and the ability to efficiently understand, process, interpret and take action on data will grow critical as smart grid rollout intensifies worldwide.

 Data, data everywhere

Utilities already manage petabytes of operational data-both real-time and archival, both static and dynamic-but the breadth of data that will have to be accounted for in the gathering smart grid is unprecedented.

This fact has been illustrated in the work of the IEEE P2030 Working Group, launched in March 2009. As part of its effort to bring together commmunications, information technology (IT) and power engineers in defining the smart grid's functional elements and needs, IEEE P2030 has worked to inventory requirements in terms of interoperability interfaces and interconnections among data exchanges, computer-network security and integration with existing and future systems and applications. As the smart grid rolls out globally, utilities will be sharing more data across:

customer portals into energy usage;
demand-management applications that pair usage and pricing data in order to incentivize customer-initiated load control;
distributed energy resources, including storage technology at customer sites;
outage-management systems that communicate among customers, utility workforce and partner distribution entities;
utility revenue-metering applications that interact with both AMI and/or other meter data; and
phasor measurement unit (PMU) monitoring, data logging and analysis, shared among neighboring regional transmission organizations (RTOs) and utilities.

Enabling data exchange

Utilities are faced with key strategic decisions with regard to the infrastructure they construct to underlie the data exchange.

Though the applications are unlikely to be bandwidth-hungry at levels approaching, say, large-file tranfer or streaming video, utilities nonetheless will be handling more data generated by more sources at more frequent intervals than ever before. So, in constructing a sufficient smart grid communications infrastructure, utilities will have to satisfy basic performance requirements such as bandwidth and latency parameters.

Beyond that, data security will be a prime area of concern. Security considerations include ensuring the confidentiality, integrity and availability of sensistive data; mitigating risk with regard to the value of information and assets; and identifying threats and vulnerabilities. Cybersecurity will not be a one-time solution for a utility to identify, purchase and deploy at a single point in time.

Data reliability will also be a highprofile issue, given that an area of the grid potentially could be shut down if operational data is inaccurate or compromised, and that power is fundamental to everything we do. The stakes are very high.

Managing data for maximum benefit

In addition, there are questions for the utility to answer in terms of what to do with the array of data made newly available by the smart grid.

Meter data management, for example, introduces new storage, operational and analysis requirements. The utility will be gathering more data from head-end servers to be stored, validated, synchronized and edited, and therefore, data storage and processing footprints must be accommodated. Then, there's the task of extrapolating useful business intelligence from event records. Back-office applications will be needed to glean meaning from data and fuel utility-asset and customer- relationship management.

Not only could effective handling of smart grid data enable powerful new business capabilities such as monitoring for service theft, anticipating high demand and leveraging distributed-generation sources in wide scale, it also could transform whole competitive strategies. Utilities have tended to not share their data relative to utilization of the grid (how many kilowatt hours they sold, the reach of their customers vs. local customers, etc.). But, depending upon how regulatory decisions play out with regard to ownership, privacy and security of data, distributed-generation operators, for example, might be better positioned to market their resources.

With utilities consumed with strategic questions about how the smart grid will be implemented market to market around the world, the global standards community is simultaneously at work on ensuring that the integrated power, communications and IT elements work together seamlessly.

The IEEE P2030's "Draft Guide for Smart Grid Interoperability of Energy Technology and Information Technology Operation With the Electric Power System (EPS), and End-Use Applications and Loads," for example, was released for sponsor balloting within IEEE in March 2011. The IEEE P2030 guide will seek to establish a consistent definition of the elements and functional requirements associated with two-way communications and control across the grid.

Gaps demanding additional standards work are sure to present themselves as the smart grid rolls out over the next decades. The smart grid's unprecedented volume of data and dependence on it figure to form one of the primary sources of ongoing development.


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