The electricity demands of today are challenging the capabilities of power grids around the world, and future requirements stand to be even greater. Global standards development and adoption is essential in cost-effectively creating a more flexible, intelligent, and robust facility for delivering electricity. But creating those standards requires R&D funding, and in the U.S., it appears to be unclear from where that investment is going to come.
There is a successful history of government and industry working together in these areas. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), for example, has been entrenched in research, testing, and standards development for distributed, renewable energy sources since 1979. It was with support from NRELas charged by the U.S. Dept. of Energys Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliabilitythat two breakthrough, systems-level standards of particular relevance to building engineers were created:
IEEE 1547HYPERLINK Standard for Interconnecting Distributed Resources with Electric Power Systems. This code was approved by the IEEE Standards Board in June 2003, which has been leveraged heavily in federal legislation and rule making, the deliberations of state regulatory bodies, and utility interconnection agreements.
IEEE 2030 Guide for Smart Grid Interoperability of Energy Technology and Information Technology Operation with the Electric Power System (EPS), End-Use Applications, and Loads. This code was published in September 2011, which became the worlds first system-of-systems, foundational standard created from ground up to define Smart Grid interconnection and interoperability.
In both these cases, government and industry collaboration was essential in standards development, which has moved grid modernisation forward, innovation in the ways that buildings interact with power, interconnection and interoperability education, and technology transfer in the evolution of the electricity grid. During the development of IEEE 1547, for example, industries matched multiple times over each dollar of government investment with its own funding to send professionals to meetings to work on the standard.
Much more standards workparticularly at the architectural, systems levelneeds to be done, but, so far, the bulk of U.S. R&D investment has been concentrated in either inventing or demonstrating disparate technological elements of the emerging Smart Grid. There is no question this funding has been worthwhile, as the innovations for which it is paying will prove necessary pieces in the next.
But the puzzle pieces must fit together seamlessly to form the complete picture, if the Smart Grids most compelling long-term benefitssignificant reduction in environmental impact, energy security for generations, greater consumer empowerment, lowered long-term costs for building operators and utilities alike, creation of new markets, etc.are to be realized. And systems-level standards will help the Smart Grids pieces fit together.
Without those architectural standards, on the other hand, the development and deployment costs of the Smart Grid over decades could turn out to be exponentially higher than they would be with them. Grid stability, reliability and safety could be put into jeopardy without assurance that an innovation at one end of the grid will work with a system at the other. Furthermore, the United States and other countries with decentralised systems of utilities figure to lose influence with the global power industry, as large-scale manufacturers of Smart Grid technologies target markets such as China where the systems approach to grid modernisation is in play.
Every standard that is written demands at least some R&D investmentand sometimes quite a bit of R&D investment. In the global marketplace, government and industry work proactively and collaboratively to ensure the investments made are the ones that will define how the Smart Grid takes shape around the world.
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