The development of the smart grid is one of the key initiatives in the ARRA (American Recovering and Reinvestment Act), which seeks to support programs designed towards creating a cleaner environment. U.S. leaders envision a huge transformation in the way we manage energy consumption. Thus, ineffective utility control systems are being replaced with much more efficient systems, which can communicate more effectively. Open connectivity is a critical element for a reliable smart grid and automated meter applications for the natural gas, water, and electric utilities.
This year, consumers will be seeing smart meters, a real-time, automated metering infrastructure (AMI) to be introduced on a nationwide basis. These meters will offer utilities and consumers the highest visibility into their power usage. Ultimately, this will allow utilities to better predict and meet demand, thus offering greater flexibility in deploying renewable power into the grid.
Utilities and technology developers are working together to achieve an open ecosystem in the effort to connect and revolutionize our nation's energy management. Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), distribution automation (DA), combined sewer overflows (CSO)/sanitary sewer overflow (SSO) water collection system flow measurement and alarming, emerging solutions for global positioning systems (GPS) tracking, location based services (LBS), and geographic information systems (GIS) are playing a major role in enabling smart-energy infrastructures and helping to drive a paradigm shift in new sectors. Driven by ecological and political concerns, and fueled by stimulus dollars, smart-energy infrastructures—the smart electricity grid and the related electric-transportation ecosystem—are becoming realities.
Smart infrastructures are characterized by technologies that enable two-way monitoring between producers and end-users such as seen with OPC and communication protocols. The smart grid infrastructure involves the integration of two-way communications between utilities and consumers through automated metering infrastructure, or smart meters and sensors, to determine where and to what extent electricity is being consumed. AMI provides customers and utilities with real-time or near real-time energy information, such as pricing, power, demand, quality, and so forth.
In the automation world, OPC’s latest standard known as OPC-UA (Unified Architecture) can address the features and benefits required in smart grid applications. Operating tomorrow’s distribution network will require interoperable, efficient and secure communications to help tightly integrate systems for a fast, coordinated response to potential issues.
NIST, (The National Institute of Standards and Technology) issued a report titled The NIST Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability Standards, Release 1.0, which provides a list of standards and other assets needed to support an interoperable smart grid. OPC-UA is one of the standards to make that list and demonstrates the importance of achieving interoperability among devices and systems, as well as security.