One of the greatest challenges countries will face in coming decades is dealing with the way in which electricity will be generated, distributed and consumed. Reliability along the whole chain will rest on Smart Grid capabilities. Existing grids in many countries, built decades ago, are showing their limitations as demand for power soars and as new sources of energy are brought on line.
The need to upgrade grids is obvious, but it presents major technical challenges as they integrate assets such as lines, cable and transformers which have been added over many years and have a long lifespan, with more modern electronic and communications systems. Grids must operate continuously, which makes upgrading a complex issue. As in most cases they cannot be entirely rebuilt, it is necessary to add electronics and communications systems to them, thereby also upgrading their "intelligence". The problems grid managers face is to know where and how to integrate these newer electronic and communications systems, which have a relatively short lifespan, with existing assets, and to ensure they are interoperable and can communicate with each other.
For this integration to be successful and for grids in general to be interoperable even across borders, requires International Standards and guidelines. All are prepared by dozens of different IEC TCs and various Groups.
Wealth of documents and tools to locate existing Smart Grid Standards
IEC International Standards and Standards from other organizations exist for every part of the Smart Grid. The problem grid managers face is to identify these Standards (there are hundreds of them) and to find out what is their role in the wider grid architecture.
To help grid managers find their way through the maze, the IEC has developed a Smart Grid Standards Map. This enables the user to single out any given Standard in relation to its role within the Smart Grid by giving an overall view of the grid’s architecture, as well as a list of all Standards (with previews). These are arranged by clusters (e.g. automated metering and communication infrastructures, cable overhead lines, distributed energy, automation, generic substation, etc.).
IEC Smart Grid resources are extensive; in addition to a list of relevant International Standards they include a dedicated webpage with a Roadmap (a comprehensive document, which covers Standards for interoperability, transmission, distribution, metering, connecting consumers and cyber security) plus various tools and background information.
Dedicated Groups and Committee
The framework and direction for Smart Grid activities was provided by SG 3 on Smart Grid, a Strategic Group set up by the IEC SMB (Standardization Management Board) in 2008, to offer advice on fast-moving ideas and any technologies likely to form the basis for new International Standards or IEC TCs in the area of Smart Grid technologies.
SG 3 developed and managed a Smart Grid framework that included protocols and model Standards to achieve interoperability of Smart Grid devices and systems, provided strategic guidance and monitored and interacted with the 30 or so TCs involved in Smart Grid work. It was also responsible for developing the Smart Grid Roadmap.
In June 2013 the SMB agreed to transform SG 3 into SEG 2, a Systems Evaluation Group on Smart Grid. A SEG is a temporary group set up to look at the feasibility of creating a Systems Committee on a considered scope.
In November 2013 SEG 2 recommended the transition into a full Systems Committee (SyC) on Smart Energy, a recommendation that was supported by the SMB in February 2014. The proposal was subsequently approved by National Committees in June 2014. SyCs aim to extend the scope of strategic or other horizontal groups to bridge areas covered by more than one or two TCs/SCs (Subcommittees).
They work at the systems level instead of the product level, to define reference architectures, use cases and appropriate Standards and guidance on the interfaces, functionality and interaction of a system within the scope of their charter. SyCs span multiple TC/SCs and external organizations, although they have no authority to dictate to any of them; they can produce IEC deliverables and have a system-orientated secretariat provided by Central Office.
While its strategic activities may be comparable to those carried out in its previous incarnation as SG 3, its status as a Systems Committee provides SyC Smart Energy, with the operational capability of engaging and supporting TCs. It is also able to publish as IEC deliverables (International Standards, Technical Specifications) a number of documents that can be referenced by interested parties, so providing enhanced consistency of approach; for example, generic use cases, roadmaps, etc…
The scope of the new SyC on Smart Energy includes:
- Standardization in the field of Smart Energy in order to provide systems level standardization, coordination and guidance in the areas of Smart Grid and Smart Energy, including interaction in the areas of heat and gas
- Wide consultation within the IEC community and the broader stakeholder community so as to provide overall systems level value, support and guidance to the TCs and other standard development groups, both inside and outside the IEC
- Liaison and cooperation with SEG Smart Cities and future SEGs as well as with the forthcoming Systems Resource Group
Given the growing trend towards the wide introduction of Smart Grids on an international basis, the need for relevant International Standards will be significant and the SyC on Smart Energy can expect a full agenda for years to come.