Interoperability Initiatives

International experience and road map for standards development for India

The Indian power sector has diverse participants and can be viewed as a logical information network where information travels from source nodes to destination nodes over links across devices belonging to different systems, organisations and people. Further, the information representation formats and communication protocols also vary across devices. Interoperability standards are required to facilitate seamless communication between these nodes. The Open Knowledge Initiative defines interoperability as “the measure of ease of integration between two systems or software components to achieve a functional goal. A highly interoperable integration is one that can be easily achieved by the individual who requires the result.”

A look at the current state of the distribution grid and the interoperability initiatives being taken internationally and in India…

Global interoperability initiatives

In the US, smart grid programmes have been characterised by a number of initiatives across different states and utilities. These include the IntelliGrid programme by the Electric Power Research Institute; the Gridwise Alliance and Gridwise Architecture Council by the Department of Energy; the Energy Independence and Security Act; IBM’s Smart Grid Maturity Model; and the recent National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) road map.

NIST is an agency of the US Department of Commerce which recently finished reviewing and incorporating public comments into its Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability Standards, Release 2.0. The revised framework lays out a plan for transforming the country’s ageing electric power system into an interoperable smart grid – a network that will integrate information and communication technologies with the power delivery infrastructure, enabling two-way flow of energy and communication.

The Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) was created by NIST in November 2009 to provide its members with an open forum to collaborate on the development of standards. Through the SGIP, NIST collaborates with the private sector in co-ordinating smart grid standards. The agency’s effort is aimed at creating a self-sustaining and ongoing process to support continuous innovation as grid modernisation evolves.

In Germany, the leading authority for smart grid standardisation and development is the DKE German Commission for Electrical, Electronic and Information Technologies of DIN and VDE. The DKE published the first version of E-Energy/Smart Grid Standardisation Roadmap in October 2010 and updated it in 2012. This initiative has a three-year time frame, during which it seeks to complete the development of standards. The road map includes detailed recommendations in the areas of general, regulatory and legislative changes, security and privacy, communication, architecture and power automation, distribution system automation, smart metering, distributed generation and virtual power plants, electro-mobility, storage, load management, as well as building and home automation.

In 2010, the Chinese government provided $7.5 billion funding for the development of smart grids and in the same year the National Smart Grid Standardization Promotion Group was also established under the joint leadership of the National Energy Administration and the Standardization Administration of China, which aimed at speeding up the standardisation process. The State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) has developed a hierarchical structure for making research and development efforts in the development of smart grid standards. SGCC has submitted 13 smart grid international standard proposals to the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) on smart grid interface, demand response (DR) and smart grid despatching.

In 2010, Canada created a task force on smart grid technology and standards to recommend priority standards for smart grids. In order to expand Canadian and US collaboration in the energy sector, the task force formulated a path for the priority standards of Canada, which supports the US National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop a broad range of standards for smart grid.

Interoperability road map for India

The road map for achieving a high degree of interoperability between India’s communicating entities and applications can be classified into four categories: standards, regulatory frameworks, institutional capacity building and training, and the need for a smart grid body.

  • Standards: Metering standard requirements can be broadly classified into three key layers – enterprise, wide area network (WAN) and near-me area network (NAN). The enterprise layer refers to the communication of meter-originated data between the head end system (HES) – the meter data acquisition system – and all enterprise applications like billing system, meter data management system, enterprise resource planning, and customer relationship management. IEC 61968/61970 common information model standards are the most appropriate for this layer and require customisation.

The WAN layer refers to the communication between the HES and the data concentrator unit (DCU) network. For this layer, IEC 62056 standards are recognised and have already been adapted to Indian requirements. This standard was initially designed for three classes of meters: energy accounting and audit meters, boundary meters, and consumer meters. However, efforts are being made to include single-phase meters.

The NAN layer refers to the localised communication networks under the DCU extending to all the meters. A private network using RF mesh technologies or power line carrier technologies is best suited for this layer.

A new set of standards provides for the establishment of IPv6 communication over low power and noisy networks. The adoption of these standards is expected to provide a fully functional IPv6 layer on the top of both, the RF mesh as well as PLC technologies, and can be a major stepping stone to a high performing and scalable communication solution in the NAN area.

  • Regulatory framework: A regulatory framework needs to be developed to allow utility regulations to set up a DR environment. Current regulations require the utility to provide a 15-day written notice before disconnecting the consumer’s supply. However, utilities resort to load shedding at will, depending on their requirements. This is a major obstacle for implementing a dynamic and granular DR scheme to handle peak load conditions. The regulation needs to provide for a mechanism (to be developed by a competent body comprising technical and administrative experts) that would mandate the utility to release a DR plan, solicit consumer participation (including consumer education), and perform DR-based load shedding in times of need.
  • Institutional capacity building and training: Various technology demonstration pilot projects need to be established to cover the range of technologies that are available or evolving. This will help arrive at a benchmark that will take into account the availability of vendor products, relative performance of technology, a cost-benefit analysis of each technology, and a future road map for each technology.

Further, it is recommended that a detailed study of interoperability standards be carried out which focuses on their interoperability test definitions. The study should check for the presence of interoperability test definitions, test tools and certifying authorities, and examine the possibility of creating authorised test laboratories for each of the standards in India. The Central Power Research Institute (CPRI), for example, has brought DLMS/COSEM and IEC 61850 standards interoperability test and certification facilities to India. Also, utility personnel have to be trained and updated in interoperability standards. The training should cover the theory of these standards, specification of products and use of standards, the performance evaluation of vendor products and networks, the evaluation of test and certification procedures, best practices in operations, and monitoring of the grid using the new standards.

  • Need for a smart grid body: India should follow international best practices and select a suitable body of technology experts, business and domain experts, standards developing organisations, utilities, vendors, regulators and possibly consumers to drive smart grid activities in the country. An effective example of this is the SGIP in the US. The new body would require funding by the Government of India in order to attract different categories of participants.

Based on a report on “Smart Grids: A Roadmap for Communication and Application Interoperability in India” by USAID and the India Smart Grid Task Force

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