From Research to Action
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) ? a Key Enabler for the Future Power System
By Matt Wakefield, Director, Information and Communication Technology Electric Power Research Institute Electric Energy T&D is pleased to introduce the latest member of our lineup of regular editorial features. Through the eyes of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) From Research to Action takes an inside look at the hottest, most technical, and advanced aspects of electric energy T&D. There are many dynamics affecting how the electric grid is operated in normal conditions as well as during significant events such as major storms. The factors affecting the dynamics include the retirement of coal generation, increasing natural gas generation, increased adoption of solar photovoltaics (PV) and new loads like electric vehicles (EV) ? all having an impact on where electricity is generated and where it is delivered. As we consider all of these factors, one thing is clear; the flexibility of the grid is becoming increasingly important. Flexibility is needed to support distributed energy resources, new loads and changing generation mix to enhance reliability and the customer experience. Utilities are finding that a key enabler of a flexible grid is the ability to apply information and communication technology (ICT) to electric transmission and distribution systems as well as end-use loads and resources. A number of information and communication technologies enable utilities to achieve greater flexibity. These include deployment of communication technologies to field devices, emerging standards and protocols, cyber security measures that address threats to an interconnected grid, data analytics, and enterprise architecture applied to electric grid operation technology (OT). Each of these ICT areas can be applied to address industry needs such as wide area situational awareness, operations and planning and mobility to accommodate increased numbers of distributed energy resources on the distribution system as well as to improve operations and reduce system restoration times during major events. Bennett Gaines, Senior VP and CIO at FirstEnergy is the first Chairman of the Electric Power Research Institute?s (EPRI) new ICT Council, and enthusiastically embraces utility research, development, and application of information and communication technologies stating, ?There is a heightened appreciation for IT knowledge, tools, and techniques used by electric utility operational groups. This growing dependency on information and communication technology is resulting in stronger intra-department relationships which are key to continue to provide our customers safe and reliable service that responsibly leverages emerging technologies.? For information and communication technologies to have the most impact, they must be considered foundational in the evolution of utility systems, both from a technical and organizational perspective. Many EPRI member utilities agree, and are participating in programs to research, develop and demonstrate these technologies. Following are highlights of utility views, progress, and research needs.
Information technology (IT) is increasingly being applied to electric grid operations--an observation confirmed by a 2012 EPRI survey of utility chief information officers (CIO?s). We learned that convergence of IT and OT is underway at many utilities, although pace and approach differ. How utilities are managing internal IT/OT convergence can be distilled into three main themes: re-engagement in IT/OT convergence discussions, partial re-organization, and, for some, a complete re-organization. Regardless of the approach, utilities are benefiting from advances in ICT by aligning technology and organizational structures. (For more details on CIO?s views of IT/ OT convergence and technology change see EPRI?s publicly available Utility Chief Information Officer (CIO) Outlook Report). 1 Fig. 1 CIO Responses to IT and OT Alignment The prominent use of Internet Protocols (IP) around the world is changing the way utilities look at their communication systems. Cisco?s Visual Network Index (VNI) 2 and its forecast of global IP traffic indicates that by 2017 there will be 19 billion IP connected devices globally. If this forecast proves correct, there will be up to three times as many IP connected devices as people in the world, a huge increase from 12 billion in 2012. In that same time frame, traffic from wireless and mobile devices will exceed traffic from wired devices. ElectricEnergy T&D MAGAZINE I JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2014 Issue 19