Let's take a look at few definitions for Smart Grid:
Wiki says "A smart grid is an electrical grid that uses information and communications technology to gather and act on information, such as information about the behaviors of suppliers and consumers, in an automated fashion to improve the efficiency, reliability, economics, and sustainability of the production and distribution of electricity."
U.S. Department of Energy. "Smart Grid / Department of Energy" States: “Smart grid” generally refers to a class of technology people are using to bring utility electricity delivery systems into the 21st century, using computer-based remote control and automation. These systems are made possible by two-way communication technology and computer processing that has been used for decades in other industries."
EPRI's Smart Grid Resouce Center states: "A Smart Grid is one that incorporates information and communications technology into every aspect of electricity generation, delivery and consumption in order to minimize environmental impact, enhance markets, improve reliability and service, and reduce costs and improve efficiency."
There are many more definitions and all of them have one common theme i.e. the communication technology is one of the main ingredients of the Smart Grids. Of many engagements and discussions with Utilities and Industry experts I have had, one missing link I found in the Smart Grid business plans and business cases is the concept of "Smart Grid Communications Monitoring & Management".
There are use cases for DMS, OMS, Substation Automation, AMI etc. etc., and they are righfully so as that's what is the core business of an electric utility, but the most important aspect of future operations of smarter grids is the reliability, resiliency and effectiveness of the communications infrastructure. Unfortunately not many people talk about this new variable in to the equation of power grid reliability & resiliency may be because Smart Grid is just coming out of infancy, but sooner or later Utility Control centers will have to include new entrant to monitor & manage the communication infrastructure.
What good will an control center application be if a control signal can not reach the device when it is required, or when a measurement from the field is required by the power systems application to take corrective action for a situation in the power grid? There are many answers to these questions, e.g. one school of though is to push the intelligence to the edge, or have redundant communications infrastructure with hybrid communication technologies, and so on..
Even pushing the intelligence to the edge or redundant hybrid communications infrastructure will require the monitoring & management of the underlying infrastructure.
Hence I would like to call upon the industry experts and executives to look in to this missing link of their Smart Grid Business Plans to include this important aspect of grid operations.
Disclaimer: The information in this blog is provided “AS IS” with no warranties, and confers no rights. This blog does not represent the thoughts, intentions, plans or strategies of my employer. It is solely my opinion.