Interconnection standards for the Smart Grid

The codes and standards defining the Smart Grid and renewable energy sources are maturing.


The details of how much, how soon, and which particular energy resources will be emphasized vary from market to market. One of the clear, common themes across the global Smart Grid movement is increased integration of renewable energy sources. A transition is definitively under way, with governments around the world issuing aggressive mandates around renewables.

As the technologies that are undergirding greater use of renewables have matured, so have the standards that define their multi-vendor interoperability and interconnection with the power grid. The consulting engineers who help usher utilities and the industry serving them through the Smart Grid transformation over the coming decades will have to be aware of a host of existing and emerging standards.

The standards development environment

Standards and legislative work around renewables interconnection has been ongoing for more than 30 years. Transactions between U.S. utilities and power generators, for example, were defined initially in the 1978 Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA). Ten years later, a recommended practice for linking portable photovoltaic (PV) systems with the grid was established with the release of IEEE 929.

Then in 2003 came ratification of IEEE 1547 “Standard for Distributed Resources Interconnected with Electric Power Systems.” Utility electric-power systems (EPS) historically had not been conceived to connect with active distribution-level generation and storage technologies. IEEE 1547 defined key technical specifications for installations of technologies of 10 MVA or less at the point of common coupling. The grid interconnection of a wide array of distributed-generation resources—synchronous machines, induction machines, and power inverters/converters, among others—is detailed in IEEE 1547 with regard to maintenance, operation, performance, safety, and testing. The standard addresses universal requirements for interconnection of such elements (considered to be 60-Hz sources) and their impact on radial primary and secondary distribution systems and network distribution systems. Abnormal conditions, power quality, islanding, and test specifications and requirements for design, production, installation evaluation, commissioning, and periodic tests are covered.

“Interconnection services shall be offered based upon IEEE 1547,” said the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005, and 80% of the United States’ public utility commissions (PUCs) have adopted the standard thus far. A significant technical breakthrough in its own right, IEEE 1547 also demonstrated a model for crafting future interconnection agreements, rules, and standards through open, consensus-based processes. Out of the IEEE 1547 experience, in fact, was born the IEEE 2030 effort.

The working group that developed IEEE 2030 launched in March 2009, integrating the efforts of power, communications, and information technology engineers in documenting the standard interfaces on which the next-generation Smart Grid will rely. The power engineers sought to identify the devices and information that the Smart Grid would need; communications and IT engineers strived to detail how seamless, secure, two-way data exchange could occur end-to-end across the grid.

IEEE 2030 “IEEE Guide for Smart Grid Interoperability of Energy Technology and Information Technology Operation with the Electric Power System (EPS), End-Use Applications, and Loads” was approved and published in September 2011, and work has commenced on related guides dedicated to particular applications: the IEEE P2030.1 guide on electric-vehicle interoperability, the IEEE P2030.2 guide covering electric storage systems, and IEEE P2030.3 standard for storage-interconnection standards.

IEEE also reaffirmed the IEEE 1547 base standard in 2010 for another five years. Plus, it launched work on two extensions with prime relevance to the Smart Grid’s consulting engineers who are involved with renewables interconnection.

IEEE P1547.7 “Draft Guide to Conducting Distribution Impact Studies for Distributed Resource Interconnection” might prove to be of particular interest in helping to expedite special interconnection needs and solutions and minimize the time and cost of future studies. The guide is planned to describe criteria and scope for engineering studies of distributed energy sources’ impact on area EPS: when such impact studies might be appropriate, what data they are to capture, and how they are to be executed and evaluated.

Meanwhile, IEEE P1547.8 “Recommended Practice for Establishing Methods and Procedures that Provide Supplemental Support for Implementation Strategies for Expanded Use of IEEE Standard 1547” seeks to identify innovative designs, processes, and operational procedures that might enhance the usefulness of the base standard. Extending IEEE 1547-based interconnection to emergent technologies across energy storage, hybrid generation-storage systems, intermittent renewables, inverters, and plug-in, hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) via IEEE P1547.8 is intended to expand utilities’ flexibility in engaging with renewable sources.

Making sense of the developments

Renewables interconnection is just one of the many busy fronts of standards development across the Smart Grid movement. Hundreds of both system- and component-level standards are being crafted across cybersecurity, communications, and IT services; PHEVs and power generation; and transmission and distribution.

It’s a complex, multi-layered standards environment that the Smart Grid’s community of consulting engineers must make sense of. Fortunately, coordination is taking form across the global standards community, bringing some degree of order to what otherwise would be a chaotic task.

In the United States, for example, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) was tasked in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 with creating a framework of Smart Grid interoperability standards, and the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) formed in 2009 to assist NIST in fulfilling its responsibilities by identifying, prioritizing, and addressing new and emerging requirements for Smart Grid standards. (IEEE 1547 is among the standards that NIST identified as important for helping work on the Smart Grid advance, and a NIST Priority Action Plan calling for enhanced functionality around interconnection performance informed the launch of the IEEE P1547.8 project.)

Meanwhile, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) has introduced the Smart Grid Standards Mapping Solution. With this multidimensional graphic interface, consulting engineers can obtain a list of the standards that are needed within a subsystem and investigate a standard’s role in the Smart Grid and relationship to other standards.

In some cases, different standards development organizations (SDOs) are aligning efforts, too. The IEEE Standards Assn. (IEEE-SA) and SAE International, for example, have launched a partnership in vehicular technology related to the Smart Grid. Under terms of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that the two SDOs signed in February 2011, IEEE-SA and SAE International are exchanging their draft standards that apply to the Smart Grid and vehicle electrification. The goal of the partnership is the quicker rollout of more relevant standards, translating into enhanced market opportunities, cost efficiencies, and better technologies.

The Smart Grid’s pace of development is fierce, as evidenced by a number of governmental initiatives to accelerate rollout. The European Union, for example, is pushing to simultaneoulsy cut greenhouse gasses and boost renewables reliance and energy efficiency by 20% apiece by the year 2020. Similarly, President Obama has challenged the United States to rely on clean energy-generation sources for at least 80% of its electricity by 2035.

DeBlasio is chair of the IEEE 2030 Working Group, is a member of the IEEE Standards Assn. Board of Governors, and is chief engineer with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Smart Grid at a glance


The IEEE 2030 standard defines the Smart Grid as “the integration of power, communications, and information technologies for an improved electric power infrastructure serving loads while providing for an ongoing evolution of end-use applications.” Rollout of the Smart Grid is intensifying in markets around the globe, with different regions emphasizing different transformative benefits, such as empowering consumers to more cost-effectively manage their energy usage, reducing carbon footprint, developing economic opportunities and enhancing power reliability and security.

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