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Smart grid must integrate innovation with legacy systems

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Monday, October 08, 2012

In the same way the U.S. Interstate system modernized transportation and shipping, and gave way for new products and solutions in the logistics industry, so too will the smart grid, which will require new devices and business models to maximize efficiency.

According to AOL Energy, the new grid is already home to several innovative new products, such as various intelligent electronic devices (IEDs) and automated substations. Stimulus spending has supported a number of these projects, which have ranged from simple smart meter installations to advanced smart grid rollouts that sprawl across a utility's entire grid infrastructure. These funds have also helped to upgrade transmission systems with new sensors and controls that can monitor grid activity and help resolve any issues as soon as they arise.

All of this together has created a huge market for new smart grid software and hardware, which will need to be integrated with a utility's legacy system. This, however, could be much more difficult than it first seems, as regulators are still deciding the best ways to marry these two generations of devices in a way that would allow the smart grid's touted benefits to truly be known.

Steve Corneli, senior vice president of policy and strategy at NRG, spoke on this topic at the recent GridWeek 2012 in Washington, D.C., where he asserted that many innovators in the utilities sector may even break free from the mold of a regulation-based business model.

According to the media outlet, Becky Harrison, Interim CEO, GridWise Alliance, also spoke at the conference, and she discussed how it will be imperative for utilities to make substantial operational changes when new grid hardware is in place. Because these companies typically generate profits on return on capital investment, new technologies that change how the company operates could significantly impact decisions on business spending.

Susan Tierney, Managing Principal, Analysis Group, added that among all the changes these new technologies still must provide a "reliability backbone" and that regulators must ensure the need for such reliability is understood by all members of the industry.

With SUBNET's interoperability solutions and software, utilities can ensure the shift away from legacy systems is performed efficiently quickly, effectively keeping installations from causing costly company downtime. SUBNET also ensures utilities adhere to strict NERC CIP standards, which can further save a utility time and money.

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