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IEEE expert member outlines importance of smart grid

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Monday, September 17, 2012

Massoud Amin, director of the Technological Leadership Institute and senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), has been working with the electric grid his entire life, and says that implementing a reliable smart grid has the potential to transform society, including farming, educations, business and healthcare.

Amin recently sat down with Government Technology to discuss the work IEEE is doing to help the nascent smart grid, which although involves complex installation methods, new government regulations and huge improvements in data collecting and information sharing, will be crucial for countries around the world.

In short, Amin described the smart grid as a network of computers, communication networks, sensors and controls that are used alongside electrical transmission and distribution companies. These utilities can use smart grid technologies to improve both reliability and their overall capabilities, and also have the potential to better integrate intermittent renewable energy sources into the grid.

Amin pointed out that the secure digital technologies that will be installed on the grid, as well as the architecture needed to implement these innovations, will allow utilities to electronically control the grid and configure it in a way that best suits their needs.

"This gives the grid unprecedented flexibility and functionality and self-healing capability. It can react to and minimize the impact of unforeseen events, such as power outages, so that services are more robust and always available," he told the media outlet.

IEEE is synonymous with smart grid development. Virtually every aspect of grid modernization projects are overseen by the organization, and its members in academia, government and private industry have helped create a foundation from which more smart grid projects can spring. The group has also taken it upon itself to develop technology standards that will allow for increased interoperability among businesses and their smart grid programs, Amin stated.

The IEEE Standards Association has already developed or proposed more than 100 smart grid standards, which will be crucial for smart grid technologies to really find their footing. IEEE is also working with several other organizations that have also generated similar standards. Collaboration, Amin said, will be vital to the success of the smart grid.

"This type of collaboration represents a new paradigm in standards development today. Collaboration is seen as a practical means of solving problems that are common to all participating groups and stakeholders, regardless of the formal status of a particular standard within an industry or country," he said.

Two of the most pressing issues facing smart grid vendors and utilities will be interoperability and cyber security. Amin told the news provider that IEEE is working tirelessly to address these concerns through research-based standards. IEEE 2030, a standard on the architectural framework of the smart grid, defines interconnection and interoperability standards for all power, IT and communications technologies that have been developed and will be integrated into the power grid.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology Smart Grid Interoperability Panel has also weighed in on what the smart grid needs to better support interoperability, and is working closely with IEEE to thoroughly develop these standards.

Amin stated that keeping the nation's critical infrastructure protected will also be at the forefront of IEEE research. Cyber security will be "fundamentally necessary" for the proliferation of the smart grid, however, what most important, he said, is that "security is incorporated into the architectures and designs at the outset, not as an afterthought."

SUBNET, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, operates in such a way, and offers products and software that use a proactive approach to cyber security, as opposed to other reactive systems that wait to patch any vulnerabilities until they have already been exploited. 

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