The Smart Grid Program develops and demonstrates smart grid measurement science advances to improve the efficiency, reliability, resilience, and sustainability of the nation’s electric grid. The Program portfolio centers on two interacting components: (1) consensus standards and protocols for smart grid interoperability; and (2) measurement science research for future grid capabilities. The former is pursued in collaboration with community organizations like the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (originally launched with NIST assistance and now an independent organization), interagency groups such as the Smart Grid Task Force, and other industrial, academic, and government sector stakeholders. The NIST Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability, which responds to mandates to NIST from Congress and the Administration, is continuously evolved by the Program and provides the anchor for our standards efforts. An advanced smart grid testbed provides the focus for our measurement science research work. The testbed focuses on future microgrid concepts and is designed to be agile, to accommodate a wide range of experimental and testing configurations, and composable, to enable collaborative use with other testbeds across the country. The research work supports and informs the standards work and together these components enable NIST to promote the emergence of a smart grid for the nation. The NIST-wide Smart Grid Program is coordinated by the Engineering Laboratory (Smart Grid and Cyber-Physical Systems Program Office) and draws on the expertise of the Engineering, Information Technology and Physical Measurement Laboratories.
What is the Problem?
In its present state, the electric grid is not capable of meeting the increasing demands of the 21st century economy for cost-effective, highly reliable, resilient and sustainable electric energy. It is estimated that on the order of $2 trillion worldwide will be needed to replace existing aging transmission, generation and distribution assets over the next 20 years. The national scale and importance of the problem and the drivers to modernize the nation’s electrical grid through development of a smart grid are recognized in many policy documents, including the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), State of the Union addresses reiterating the President’s vision for the clean energy economy, the White House’s “Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future,” and the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) reports “A Policy Framework for the 21st Century Grid: Enabling Our Secure Energy Future” and “A Policy Framework for the 21st Century Grid: A Progress Report.”
Because the present system is designed to meet infrequent peak demands, it operates inefficiently, at roughly 50% system load factor on average. Improving system efficiency, reducing peak usage by managing demand as well as generation, and managing the system safely and reliably but closer to operational limits can optimize asset utilization and reduce investments that would otherwise be needed for business as usual scenarios. The reliability of the U.S. grid is an order of magnitude worse than that of some other developed countries such as Japan and Korea, imposing an estimated $80 billion to $100 billion in yearly economic losses to the U.S. economy. (vi) Electricity generation accounts for 40% of human-caused CO2 emissions, and renewable energy portfolio standards have been enacted in 29 states to drive more sustainable clean generation. The grid will have to be capable of more dynamic operation to support integration of significant amounts of intermittent renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, which are growing but still account for less than 5% of U.S. generation capacity. In addition, grid resiliency must be improved to restore operations quickly and systematically after wide-spread outages, such as due to severe weather and other events.
The overarching problem is that measurement science is lacking (1) to improve cross-cutting systems-level smart grid performance; (2) to enable real-time sensing and control of transmission and distribution grids; (3) to manage integration of new distributed energy resources throughout the grid; and (4) to fully integrate customer facilities with a smart grid. Integration of new sensor, communications, control and optimization technologies into the electric grid is critical to addressing these problems; however grid operators and regulators have been slow to adopt them at large scale because the measurement science to ensure expected benefits are realized is lacking. Technical barriers to their adoption include incomplete standards and testing programs for interoperability of smart grid devices and systems, concerns about cybersecurity and privacy, and lack of validated measurement methods and models that demonstrate that new smart grid technologies cost-effectively improve grid performance without introducing unforeseen instabilities and vulnerabilities.
What is the Technical Idea?
The key technical idea is the development of a standards-based reference architecture, with associated interoperability and security requirements, as the foundation for prioritizing and addressing measurement science needs for the smart grid. This architectural framework is described in detail in the NIST Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability Standards, Release 1.0 and Release 2.0, and in the latest revision, Release 3.0, which was published in September 2014. By combining a focus on interoperability with traditional NIST expertise in measurement characterization, NIST will develop the necessary measurement science deliverables, including standards, protocols, models, test methods and research publications to ensure that the performance of the smart grid at the system, subsystem, and end-user levels can be measured, controlled, and optimized to meet interoperability, security, efficiency, reliability, resiliency and other performance requirements. To accomplish this, system-level standardized architectural concepts, data models and protocols integrated with new measurement methods and models will be characterized or developed to sense, control and optimize the smart grid’s new operational paradigm. To improve transmission and distribution operations, the new technical idea is to develop the measurement science to support real-time monitoring of grid functions through multiple measurement/sensor network systems to produce actionable information for grid operators. New power electronics performance characterization will be developed to evaluate and integrate power conditioning systems with new functionalities to support distributed energy resources in the grid. For user-to-grid interactions, the approach will be to model the interaction of complex building systems with the grid in a holistic, integrated manner that considers system and consumer interactions and their impact on energy consumption, comfort, safety, and maintenance.
What is the Research Plan?
The smart grid research plan consists of interrelated projects to advance measurement science to enable the implementation of new smart grid functionality that: improves grid reliability and resiliency; increases asset utilization and efficiency; and enables greater use of renewable energy sources in the grid. The projects are organized into five program thrust areas. These are: a systems-level cross-cutting Measurement Science for Smart Grid System Performance research thrust; three domain-focused research thrusts: Measurement Science for Transmission and Distribution Grid Operations; Measurement Science for Distributed Energy Resources and Microgrids; Measurement Science for User-to-Grid Interoperation; and the Smart Grid National Coordination function within the EL Smart Grid and Cyber-Physical Systems Program Office. The three domain thrusts develop enabling measurement science for robust sensing, power management and communications and intelligence within their domains, and the overarching system-level thrust supports system-level coordination, evaluation and use of these underlying domain capabilities under grid-scale operating conditions and addressing the cross-cutting security, network communications and electromagnetic environment. The smart grid testbed provides a unifying focus and collaboration platform for the team, with a research focus on microgrids. The Smart Grid National Coordination function continues its leadership role in engaging all key stakeholders in the smart grid community to ensure NIST smart grid program deliverables meet their needs.