The role of standards development in grid modernization

Standards development is playing a big part in the ongoing rollout of the Smart Grid.


Dick DeBlasioGlobally open development of consensus technology standards is one of the engines that is propelling grid modernization around the world. The story of the growing IEEE 1547 family of standards for interconnecting distributed sources of generation-standards that are driven by recognition of critical needs in the marketplace, defined by expert technologists through the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) and then leveraged in the field by utilities, independent power producers, and regulators-exemplifies the role that standards development is playing in the ongoing rollout of the Smart Grid. 

Driven by market need, defined by technical experts

As is the case with other IEEE standards, the origin of IEEE 1547-2003: Standard for Interconnecting Distributed Resources with Electric Power Systems came about from a need in the marketplace. An IEEE standards development project can come from any individual, organization, or company worldwide, and then the IEEE-SA oversees the accredited process by which consensus is reached in writing and refining the standard.

The backstory to IEEE 1547 is that there existed no common industry standard addressing the interconnection of independent power producers with the electricity grid when utilities in the United States were deregulated in the late 1990s. What existed instead was a patchwork of unique interconnection agreements among the disparate utilities. That made for a complicated market landscape, in which technology manufacturers found it expensive to build products that would work seamlessly with utilities across the country (much less around the globe).

The U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE), seeking to spur distributed generation deployment and implementation, reached out to IEEE to develop a national standard addressing interconnection technical requirements. Indeed, IEEE 1547, approved in 2003 and reaffirmed in 2008, is designed to propose criteria and requirements around performance, operation, testing, safety, and maintenance for all distributed resource technologies with aggregate capacity of 10 MV amp (MVA) or less at the point of common coupling.

As more utilities, manufacturers, independent power producers, consulting engineers, and regulators have looked to IEEE 1547 for credible technical guidance compiled through the IEEE-SA's rigorous process of peer review, real-world distributed generation deployment has intensified. And that trend has brought new market needs to the fore. So, a whole family of IEEE 1547 extension standards has been developed to help the market achieve new goals:

The most recent addition to the standards family, published just this year, is IEEE 1547a-2014: Standard for Interconnecting Distributed Resources with Electric Power Systems-Amendment 1, which revisits voltage and frequency proposals in the wake of proliferation of new power electronics. Smart inverters, for example, are a technology innovation that is intended to compensate for the inherent intermittency of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind and, in turn, allow greater reliance on those sources in the Smart Grid. 

Leveraged in the field, sparking innovation

IEEE does not define laws or regulatory requirements. Rather, IEEE develops voluntary standards, recommended practices, and guides that can then be adopted by regulatory agencies or in some way leveraged by other bodies around the world.

In the case of IEEE 1547, the standard has been referenced in federal legislation and rule making, state regulatory deliberations and utilities' engineering practices and interconnection agreements. IEEE 1547 was referenced in the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005 as the model for interconnection services, and 80% of state public utility commissions (PUCs) in the United States have leveraged the standard. Outside the United States, IEEE 1547's material requirements for how distributed generators can be connected to or disconnected from power grids have been sourced in markets including Germany, Japan, and Korea.

Development of the standards family continues.

IEEE P1547.8: Draft Recommended Practice for Establishing Methods and Procedures that Provide Supplemental Support for Implementation Strategies for Expanded Use of IEEE Standard 1547 is underway. Intensifying deployment of energy storage, hybrid generation-storage systems, renewables, plug-in electric vehicles, inverters used in home solar-power systems, and other technologies in the global Smart Grid effort precipitated the launch of this development project.

IEEE P1547.1a: Draft Standard Conformance Test Procedures for Equipment Interconnecting Distributed Resources with Electric Power Systems Amendment 1 is being crafted to address testing around voltage regulation and response to abnormal conditions of voltage and frequency in area electric power systems.

And the IEEE 1547 base standard is undergoing a total refresh after its 10 years of use in the field, to reshape the standard to better align with global needs. More than 80 industry participants attended a December 2013 workshop toward the launch of a new development project and working group to revise IEEE 1547 standard before 2018.

The globally open standards-development environment is helping move the Smart Grid forward by giving consulting engineers, utilities, manufacturers, independent power producers, and regulators the opportunity to share each other's lessons learned and ensure that the specific needs of their own disciplines and markets are considered in the documents that inform grid modernization. Standards development helps spur implementation of technological innovations, and then the new challenges and opportunities that present themselves in the field spur collaboration toward development of refined or new standards. The growth and ongoing expansion of the IEEE 1547 family of standards illustrates this cycle and its role in grid modernization worldwide.

In addition to his role as chair of IEEE SCC21 Standards Coordinating Committee on Fuel Cells, Photovoltaics, Dispersed Generation, and Energy Storage, which sponsors and leads the family of standards for IEEE 1547 and IEEE 2030, Dick DeBlasio is a member of the IEEE Standards Board and past member of the IEEE Standards Association Board of Governors and chief engineer with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

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