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10 Big Questions About the Smart Grid

A primer for the 68 percent of consumers who have no idea what a smart grid is.

by / September 14, 2012

on the IEEE Smart Grid Web Portal, which the IEEE hosts as a comprehensive information gateway to smart grid resources and expertise.

4. Why is it important to have national smart grid standards and is an international body needed to govern standards?

Technology standards are needed so that products can interoperate and businesses can distribute their products to multiple countries or regions. The economies of scale that standardization creates can drive down costs, which benefits everyone. And because more vendors might participate in a market, customers have more product choices. Also, when a technology is standardized, customers can have more confidence that their products will function as expected.

The IEEE Standards Association has more than 100 smart grid standards developed or in development, and these will support a wide range of technologies and services that will be used throughout a smart grid system. Many other regional and international standards development organizations are also creating smart grid standards. IEEE and other leading groups are working together on smart grid standards because they recognize that collaboration is necessary to make sure smart grid succeeds.

This type of collaboration represents a new paradigm in standards development today. Collaboration is seen as a practical means of solving problems that are common to all participating groups and stakeholders, regardless of the formal status of a particular standard within an industry or country.

5. How is the smart grid community addressing interoperability and security as it pertains to the smart grid? What role, if any, is IEEE playing there?

The IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) has published an architectural framework for the smart grid, called IEEE 2030, which defines the interconnection and interoperability standards for the power, IT and communications technologies that will be used in smart grids.

IEEE-SA is working actively on standardization with the NIST Smart Grid Interoperability Panel, which includes IEEE-SA standards in its catalog of smart grid standards. IEEE-SA also collaborates with many standards organizations that represent specific industries, countries or regions to help make sure that products that operate on smart grids are complementary and compatible with one another. 

Security, which includes privacy and cybersecurity, is fundamentally necessary for reliable grid operations and for customer acceptance of smart grids, and many in IEEE and the smart grid community are developing technologies and standards addressing this issue. What’s most important, however, is that security is incorporated into the architectures and designs at the outset, not as an afterthought. For the microgrids [distributed resource island system] I’m involved with, we employ security technologies for each equipment component we use and for each customer application we develop — and we do this in a way that cannot

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Karen Stewartson

Karen Stewartson served as the managing editor of Government Technology for many years. She also contributed to Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines.

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