Thursday, August 18, 2011

Progress in Smart Grid Deployment – Too slow?

Many people all over expect that the Electric Power Delivery system will be changed to become smarter over night. A system that has been build over a period of 20, 50, …. 100+ years cannot be changed in short time! The change is likely to occur in steps over several decades – may be for ever.

Peter Fox Penner (US consultant) has summarized what is going on in the process of change. He concludes: “… Taken together, the trends discussed here show that the smart grid is expanding and developing, even if the most successful entities and programs are surprising. More importantly, these trends illustrate the evolutionary nature of smart grid development. Arguments that the smart grid is moving too slowly underestimate the scale and complexity of rebuilding our entire grid. Utilities are tasked with deploying a complex series of infrastructure investments that must work in harmony with their current (already smart) systems, use innovative pricing that customers support, and produce a net benefit. Under these conditions, slow and steady wins the race. We can expect smart grid development to occur in stages over decades, ultimately transforming the power industry into a very different business.”

Click HERE for his report in the IEEE Smart Grid Newsletter.

When we talk about the pace of change in the information technology in industrial automation we should not get nervous when we see the slow progress! How long did it take to get Gigabit/s Ethernet for substation environments developed … and accepted!? New approaches in Automation take often decades before they are accepted and used.

Click HERE for a brief discussion on Ethernet and Tokenbus … written decades ago.

The future for standards is quite bright. When a utility decides to deploy information technology for the next 10 or 20 years it will likely chose a stable standard – so that there is no need to change the solution every 4 or 5 years … when manufacturers have developed a new solution.

MMS (Manufacturing Message Specification, ISO 9506, used in IEC 61850-8-1 to define the message encoding) has been developed in the late eighties (80s !) – some 25 years ago. Web services are understood by some people as an option for messaging – more up-to-date. I have seen a Report message of a simple state change message using IEC 61400-25-2 Web Services the other day. The length of the XML coded Report message was some 850 octets !! A Report message encoded with MMS/ASN.1 BER (as per IEC 61850-8-1) is really shorter: by a factor of about 10 !!

Don’t hurry. Take your time. Rome hasn’t be built over night!

I usually sate in my seminars that the deployment of IEC 61850 happens too fast – users often do not have any clue what they got installed. They got it because it was cheaper than xyz. All in a sudden they have several substations with hundreds of IEDs communicating with IEC 61850 – and many (may be almost all) utility engineers have to struggle with this new way to do protection and automation. Many of them have started to get training in IEC 61850 … and you?

Don’t start slow and slow down fast ;-)

Just start – there is something to learn!

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