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IEEE president discusses smart grid challenges and opportunities for utilities

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Thursday, November 03, 2011

Dr. W. Charlton Adams Jr., president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), recently sat down with Fierce Smart Grid to share what new business models may look like with the emergence of the smart grid, as well as the changes that have already occurred within the industry.

Adams stated that the largest problem facing smart grid implementation in both the U.S. and Europe will be the decentralization of the industry. In order to for the smart grid to thrive, the power sector will ultimately need to be broken down into generation, transmission and distribution companies.

Currently, the U.S. has three separate grids, involving about 3,000 power companies, all of which will need to undergo integration programs. However, Adams says, the U.S. is in a particularly good position, as the roles and responsibilities for the development of standards are left to the industry to decide, rather than government. The electric industry and related companies have taken the initiative to modernize the three grids, while many utilities have specified what work must be done regionally.

In discussing the meaningful opportunities the smart grid will provide for utilities, Adams stated that many companies will need to focus on what their exact model will be, and how they can best integrate into the decided sector.

Utilities will need to invest in new technologies and consultants to optimize their performance, namely in transmission and distribution. The new grid will be highly focused on information technology, enabling utilities to deliver service and manage networks via servers, compared to today's relatively low-margin industry.

Adams' predicts that several new types of services will crop up as the new grid emerges.

SUBNET Solutions Inc., a solutions provider that enables utilities to integrate substation automation and remote access seamlessly into the smart grid, is well-positioned to provide the services Adams speaks about.

By offering software that helps company's adhere to NERC CIP standards and expertise on a wide range of integration techniques, SUBNET is a major contributor the the growth of the smart grid.

According to Smart Grid News, areas like Silicon Valley, where a strong technology presence has already been established, are well-prepared for the coming smart grid deployment. Already, smart grid initiatives have led to the creation of more than 12,500 jobs in the Bay Area, and will likely add more in the near future.

With giants like Cisco and Oracle emerging as major players in the smart grid market, California can expect significant changes to its electric infrastructure soon.

And these changes are precisely was Dr. Charlton Adams expects will be the drivers behind smart grid deployment.

"I think we're going to see the development of a service delivery concept in the power industry," he stated. "We have yet to see how the industry will structure this business environment, but once it gets over the technology hurdles of how to leverage and utilize the grid, power companies will sell services to vendors and consumers."

Adams stated that the IEEE Standards Association is making great strides in helping the industry to develop the smart grid, and stated it has succeeded in bringing together the three parts of the electric distribution industry - power, IT and communications - to create the recently published IEEE 2030 road map for utilities.

"The IEEE-SA continues to reach out to industry and partner with other standards organizations around the world to build Smart Grid," he said. "We have many challenges and Smart Grid standardization [that] will take time, but with IEEE 2030 in place we have the foundation needed to pursue this important work." 

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