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Technology development: actions and milestones


The need for commercial-scale demonstration:- The existing smart grid technology landscape is highly diverse. Some technology areas exhibit high levels of maturity while others are still developing and not ready for deployment. Although continued investments in research and development are needed, it is even more important to increase investments in demonstration projects that capture real-world data, integrated with regulatory and business model structures, and to work across segmented system boundaries – especially interacting with end-use customers. While this is happening currently as a result of stimulus funding (Table 5), it is vital that it continue to expand. Only through large-scale demonstrations – allowing for shared learning, reduction of risks and dissemination of best practices – can the deployment of smart grids be accelerated. Current levels of political ambition appear to be sufficient, but high quality analysis and positive demonstration outcomes must be highlighted to sustain these levels.

Demand response enabled by smart grids

Demand response (DR) is one of the key approaches enabled by smart grids. Changes in the generation sector will include the increased deployment of variable generation to levels over 20% of overall demand in many regions, with some regions significantly surpassing this level. Increased consumption of electricity from both existing and new loads will continue to place stress on the electricity system and increase peak demand. Variable generation resources and peak demand can be managed by a range of mechanisms – DR being one – where more potential is ready to be exploited.

Load management, in the form of direct load control, peak shaving, peak shifting and various voluntary load-management programmes, has been implemented since the early 1980s. With demand response, the system operator will be able to monitor and manage demand; the electricity grid will thus move from load-following to load shaping strategies in which demand-side resources are managed to meet the available generation and the grid’s power delivery capabilities at any given time (Ipakchi and Albuyeh, 2009).

Demand response cuts across several technology areas highlighted earlier, including customer side systems, advanced metering infrastructure, distribution management and automation, and sometimes stretching from generation to end-use. Additionally, there are three main customer groups with different DR profiles: industrial, service and residential. A relatively few industrial customers with large electricity demands could have a significant impact on the electricity system; mature technologies and market approaches exist for applications in this end-use sector. A large number of residential consumers would be needed to have a similar effect and the technology, behavioural and market models are much less mature. The service sector falls somewhere in the middle.

Demand response can significantly reduce peak demand and – in the longer term – provide the flexibility needed, both in volumetric terms and in speed of response, to support variable generation technologies. Given current technological and market design maturity levels, however, system operators have made it clear that more work is needed in the near term to understand the key factors that will enable DR in the residential and service sectors. In addition to system operators, generation stakeholders who depend on system flexibility, such as wind and solar farm operators, must actively support DR technology development and demonstration as a way to increase flexibility and ensure increasing deployment levels into the grid can be managed effectively. Other DR stakeholders, including aggregators, technology developers and industrial, service and residential customers, must also collaborate to ensure that technology development meets all parties’ needs with due consideration of regulatory and market mechanisms.

Development of consumer-based enabling technologies

Pilot projects have shown that certain so-called enabling technologies enhance the ability of smart grids consumers to adjust their consumption and save on their electricity bills. These enabling technologies also improve the sustainability of end user behaviour change over time. Considerable innovation is under way in this field and numerous enabling technologies have already been developed and piloted, including in-premise customer displays or “energy dashboards”, programmable and price responsive end-use controllers, and home or facility wide automation networks.

Some research projects are looking into the behavioural aspects of presenting feedback on consumption, as well as opportunities for automated end-use load control. As with many emerging fields, the range of approaches is wide and early results vary considerably.

• Key enabling technology development questions include:

• Is there an optimal mix of behavioural modification and automation technologies?

• How much customer education is required and what are the best approaches?

• What policies can governments adopt to encourage innovation without picking technology winners?

• What is the impact of ICT choices (e.g. private/ dedicated carriers vs. public-based carriers such as the Internet) on enabling technology development?

Smart grid equipment and systems are provided by many industry sectors that historically have not worked together, such as equipment manufacturers, ICT providers, the building industry, consumer products and service suppliers. Control systems operated by utilities whose networks interconnect need to be able to exchange information. Customer-owned smart appliances, energy management systems and electric vehicles need to communicate with the smart grid. Standards, definitions and protocols for transport of data are essential for this complex “system of systems” to operate seamlessly and securely (Figure 14).

International perspective on standards

Variations in equipment and systems to meet differing national standards add cost; this eventually gets passed on to consumers. International standards are needed to promote supplier competition and expand the range of options available to utilities, resulting ultimately in lower costs for consumers. Connection of national electric grids with those of adjacent countries – as in the Americas and in Europe, for example – will also be facilitated by expanded international standards. For all these reasons, it is in the interest of countries developing smart grids to collaborate on international standards.

Smart grids will eventually require hundreds of standards to be completely specified. Some of the highest priority areas include:

• Advanced metering infrastructure (AMI).

• Interfaces between the grid and the customer domain to support demand response and energy efficiency applications.

• Phasor measurement units and other sensors that increase wide-area situational awareness.

• Distribution grid automation and integration of renewable resources.

• Interconnection of energy storage.

• Communication with electric vehicles to manage charging.

• Data communication in the smart grid.

• Cyber security.

Benefits of interoperability

Interoperability refers to the ability of two or more networks, systems, devices, applications or components to communicate and operate together effectively, securely, and without significant user intervention. The evolution of telecommunication networks and the Internet over the last 40 years has demonstrated the benefits of having robust interoperability standards for large infrastructure systems. Standards prevent premature obsolescence, facilitate future upgrades and ensure systems can be scaled up for larger deployments. Standards can also provide for backward compatibility, integrating new investments with existing systems. Standards are needed to support the development of mass markets for smart appliances and electric vehicles that can communicate with the grid regardless of location or service provider. The introduction of information technologies in the smart grid introduces new cyber vulnerabilities that must be protected against by the rigorous application of cyber security standards. Standards will also protect privacy while enabling customers to securely access information on their own energy consumption.

Highlights of ongoing activities

At the international level, technical standards underpinning the smart grid are being developed by several organisations. Since the standards all need to work together to support an overall system, co-ordination of efforts by these organisations is critically important.

In the United States, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has been leading a major co-ordination programme, which has developed and published the Release 1.0   Interoperability Framework for smart grids. NIST has co-operated with many other countries that are working on smart grids to share work and facilitate collaboration, and has also established a new independent organisation, the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel. Nearly 600 companies and organisations from around the world are participating in the panel, which is co-coordinating the work of over 20 standards development organisations, including those listed above.

In Europe, a European Joint Working Group for Standardisation of Smart Grids has recently been established in which CEN, CENELEC, ETSI and the European Commission are participating. Japan has developed an initial standards roadmap for smart grids and has also formed a Smart Community Alliance, which has extended the concept of smart grids beyond the electric system to encompass energy efficiency and efficient management of other resources, such as water, gas and transportation. The government of Korea has announced a plan to build a national smart grid network and is beginning work on a standards roadmap. In China, the State Grid Corporation has developed a draft Framework and Roadmap for Strong and Smart Grid Standards.

The major economies are all contributing to the development of international standards upon which national standards can be based. Continued communication and collaboration will create excellent prospects for international harmonisation of many smart grid standards, especially those dealing with the new information aspects of the grid, while taking into account the diversity of infrastructure requirements around the world.


Source: Technology Roadmap- Smart Grids

© OECD/IEA, 2011