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Utilities head toward more intelligent grid

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Monday, October 22, 2012

All over the world, utilities are taking part in a tech revolution that will see traditional communication infrastructure and legacy substation devices go by the wayside to make room for modern smart grid architecture, Electric Light and Power reports.

According to the news source, utilities are increasingly adopting next-generation Ethernet and Internet Protocol-based packet-switched networks (PSNs). Installation of PSNs is crucial, considering their ability to handle the high amount of two-way traffic that is a staple of advanced grid functions in an intelligent network.

Because of this, almost all utilities anywhere in the world will soon plan for or begin entire overhauls of their transmission and distribution system to transform it into an intelligent PSN that efficiently and reliably takes on the challenges posed by multi-directional data flow. This will occur primarily among Internet Protocol SCADA systems, IEC 61850 IEDs and other substation automation technologies.

The media outlet reported that a recent survey, issued by the Utilities Telecom Council, found that information communications technology spending among U.S. utilities was expected to currently be at $3.2 billion strictly for telecom equipment and services. The second largest amount of spending was on transport networks, followed closely by two-way metering.

The push for smart grid installations is supported by most utilities, however, some companies, many of which are self-owned, have expressed uncertainty about switching communication platforms. Many of these utilities have held off switching to Internet Protocol systems that they feel may not have the right attributes to ensure reliability.

"In particular, specific utility applications that require smart communications over PSNs need dependable service assurance tools to ensure low end-to-end delay, high availability and resiliency," wrote Kobi Gol, RAD Data Communications' business development and solution manager for utilities, transportation and access migration.

"To slightly complicate matters, Ethernet and Internet Protocol networks are required to handle next-generation data and traffic such as analog voice, serial SCADA and teleprotection signals because extensively embedded legacy equipment will not be phased out overnight," he added.

With the introduction of PSNs will also come new cybersecurity threats. As more devices are interconnected, several new access points - many of which will be unrestricted - will open up, putting systems at risk.

As more utilities install new devices on their legacy equipment, many are choosing SUBNET's products and technologies to quickly, efficiently and reliably perform grid modernization projects. 

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