The Electric Power Research Institute (“EPRI”) recently released the smart grid white paper: “Needed: A Grid Operating System to Facilitate Grid Transformation.” The white paper dissects the first two distinct phases in grid operating systems and then calls for the creation of the 3rd. In order to support the “tectonic changes” already happening in the power system, EPRI offers to help fund, facilitate and catalyze the development of the architecture and functional specifications for Grid 3.0. Without this development, EPRI argues, “the full value of a lot of individual technologies like electric vehicles, electricity energy storage, demand response, distributed resources, and large central station renewables such as wind and solar will not be fully realized.”

In the Grid Operating System 1.0 as dubbed by EPRI, Edison and Westinghouse first faced the challenge of balancing generation against load in primitive grid operating systems of the 1800s. Grid Operating System 2.0 came about as a result of several evolutionary steps in the power markets including: 1) the transition to balancing multiple generators with a network of loads, 2) the coordination of the several large interconnected power grids across the U.S. in the 1960s, and then more recently 3) the introduction of wholesale electricity markets which shifted systems from managing dozens to hundreds of transactions a day.  The Grid Operating System 2.0, or energy management system, was a computer-based operating system developed to manage supply and demand between many market participants, multiple bulk power generators and many interconnections. While Grid 2.0 became quite sophisticated and allowed system operators to monitor and control the system in real time, it was developed for a society dependent on central station power plants and primarily a one-way flow of electricity on the grid.

Although tomorrow’s power system will still depend heavily on central station power plants, it will also increasingly include renewable generation, electric energy storage, distributed generation, electric vehicles, and the increasing deployment of smart meters, phasor measurement units, sensors and electronic communication. Namely tomorrow’s grid will need to manage a widely distributed system with many disparate components, increasing participants and a two-way flow of electricity and information.

The report calls for the development of the system architecture to be based on open-source design and outlines key components that it must include:

  • Hierarchical geospatial data acquisition and maintenance architecture;
  • The integration of traditional utility operating data with non-traditional data such as smart meters;
  • Advanced protection and control functions to prevent degradation;
  • State measurement and look ahead capability;
  • Cyber security;
  • Technology to enable active participation by consumers;
  • The ability to accommodate all generation and storage options
  • Cost benefit tradeoffs to consumers by allowing bids for competitive services;
  • Asset optimization;
  • The capacity to self-heal or respond to and mitigate system disturbances;
  • Infrastructure more resilient to attack and natural disaster; and
  • The capability to effectively integrate local energy networks.

The report authors argue that the industry has a unique opportunity to develop this system through the collaborative engagement of stakeholders, rather than regional transmission operators separately contracting with different vendors. EPRI offers to engage a diverse set of stakeholders, including some of the best minds in the industry, to develop a 24-month vision of the systems architecture and requirements.