Utilities around the world have started building out smart electric grids and smart gas grids, both of which are part of what this Guide refers to as the all-encompassing smart energy network. But one of the stumbling blocks early on was a lack of standards – and as you can imagine there are numerous pieces of a smart grid that have to work together and talk to each other. Thanks to a number of standards bodies around the world that undertook the task of developing specifications, a lot of the issues that plagued the smart grid pioneers have been resolved. Below is a quick look at interoperability targets, including one that specifically applies to energy.
Adhere to open standards to increase choice and decrease costs. With open standards products can be mixed and matched from different vendors. There are hundreds of standards just for the energy responsibility of a smart city. As we discussed in the Universal chapter, selecting standards is a job for specialists. Your job is first to insist on using them whenever possible and second to hire a supplier with a demonstrated knowledge and commitment to open standards.
But the standards selection process is easier in the energy sector than in others thanks to the free Smart Grid Standards Mapping Tool from the International Electrotechnical Commission, a Council advisor. You can simply point and click to identify any standard in relation to its role within the smart grid. New standards are added regularly. Also see the Sensor Web Enablement standards of the Open Geospatial Consortium.
Enable distributed generation with interconnection standards. Recent decades have seen the proliferation of “distributed generation” – of small, decentralized power plants located at or near the spot energy is used. Think rooftop solar installations on high-rise apartment buildings or wind turbines helping power a shopping mall.
What are required to make distributed generation work effectively are straightforward, easy-to-use interconnection standards that define how the energy sources tie in to the energy grid. It’s a relatively new business model for utilities, although many have or are in the process of developing protocols to accommodate distributed generation. Getting it right gives the city and its residents more options for economical and clean power generation without compromising secure and reliable grid operations.
Cities that own their local energy or gas utility can prioritize development of interconnection standards. Those with energy providers that are not municipally owned may need to find ways to encourage them to modernize their interconnection standards to accommodate what is clearly the wave of the future.
Distributed generation has enormous potential, including higher efficiency and greater resilience against natural or man-made disasters. It also reduces dependence on fossil fuels.