Sandeep Raina, Senior Vice President, Cisco India and SAARC
The 'Smart Grid' is a data communications network integrated with the power grid that enables operators to collect and analyze data about power generation, transmission, distribution, and consumption. It promises a more efficient way of supplying and consuming energy.
The benefits of Smart Grid for consumers include lower energy bills, reduced network outages and disruption and better control over energy consumption through visibility into usage patterns. It provides more choices for energy sources to supply energy to the grid and thus support environmental sustainability efforts.
For utilities (Utility companies) there is an increase the reliability of the energy system and enhancement in preventative maintenance through improved monitoring and diagnostic capabilities. This helps to reduce the cost of energy transmission and distribution through better demand management and helps to integrate renewable and distributed energy sources. It minimizes the need to invest in additional generation and capacity extension projects and reduces risk by improving the security and resiliency of the grid.
Smart Grid communication technology provides predictive information and recommendations to utilities, their suppliers, and customers on how best to manage power. To provide such ubiquitous near–real time information, a transformation of the power grid communications infrastructure is needed in transmission and distribution substations.
Modern data communication has evolved from telephony modems to IP networks and utilities are ready to transform their communications networks from serial to IP-based communications. Bringing more automation and intelligence to the power grid network helps to address a myriad of utility concerns such as reduction in operational expenses and helps to meet new regulatory requirements.
Substation Automation benefits
The transition from a legacy to future substation helps in the following:
Reduced operationsexpense: Converging multiple control and monitoring systems onto a single IP network enables utility companies to reduce power outages and service interruptions and decrease response times by quickly identifying, isolating, diagnosing, and repairing faults. In addition, utilities can benefit by more efficiently using their existing workforce and reducing the amount of service calls through programs such as condition-based maintenance. Substation automation also allows utilities to provide a ‘remote workforce secure access’ to applications and data that are located in the operations center.
Reduced capital expense: As demand for energy continues to grow, utilities are challenged to find new ways to shave peak load to help reduce costs and manage supply and demand of energy more efficiently. Substation automation can be the enabling technology for mass-scale peak load shaving and demand response, which will reduce the need to build as many power plants to meet peak demand. Additionally, substation automation can reduce the expense and complexity of dedicated control wiring between devices found in many transmission and distribution substations today by converging to an Ethernet based network.
Enables distributed intelligence: As network intelligence expands beyond the control center out into the substations, new applications can be developed that enable distributed protection, control, and automation functions. A distributed intelligent network also introduces opportunities for new service creation, such as business and home energy management.
Meets regulatory compliance: For many governments, utilities are considered critical infrastructure and have economic and national security concerns. Because of this, various regulatory mandates exist or are emerging that requires utilities to secure, monitor, and manage their critical data networks in accordance with regulatory requirements.
Improves grid security: Grid security is about creating a secure end-to-end architecture that maximizes visibility into the entire network environment, devices, and events. Substation automation enables an important part of the end-to-end security architecture and allows network operators to control network users, device, and traffic. Physical security can be layered on top of this network security to create security zones of access control, IP cameras for surveillance monitoring, and video analytics to protect and alert network administrators of intruders. A secure IP network for transmission of grid communications, physical security, and remote workforce management applications can also be achieved.
Open Standards and solutions approach
When they migrate away from closed, proprietary protocols, utilities are no longer constrained by a single-vendor, proprietary solution. An open IP-based network enables networking from multiple vendors, thereby increasing competition and pushing down costs. Peer-to-peer communication is achieved through the use of VLAN and multicast capabilities, which are inherent to Ethernet.
This approach supports multiple network topologies and redundancy schemes for protection against link and node failures within the substation. In addition, comprehensive upgrades of existing infrastructure are not needed since IP/Ethernet provides a smooth transition from the legacy to future substations.
A solutions-based approach to substation automation begins requires understanding different use cases and benefits around s automation and designing complete solutions to address them. These solutions fall into four main areas: networking solutions, security solutions, network management solutions, and advanced technology solutions. Within each area, companies like Cisco offer a breadth and depth of products that help utilities meet the challenges and needs of substation automation.
Energy organizations can make the transformation to Smart Grid, starting with a foundation of converged IP networks and proven security principles for substation automation. From a technology standpoint networking equipments and software with integrated security capabilities empower energy organizations to build end-to-end, secure IP networks. Going forward, the maturity, reliability, and success of these products and services can shorten the learning curve for the power grid.