Energy and the Internet of Things – If the Grid is So Smart, How Does IoT Help the Energy Sector? Energy and the Internet of Things – If the Grid is So Smart, How Does IoT Help the Energy Sector?

Energy and the Internet of Things – If the Grid is So Smart, How Does IoT Help the Energy Sector?

This article is part of Ice Miller’s Smarter Cities Guide, designed for municipal leaders, city administrators, urban planners, and economic developers. In this guide, your team will find opportunities to explore best practices and utilize checklists to develop the infrastructure, to understand the technology, and to implement the financial and legislative solutions needed to build a smarter city. Click here to learn more.

A central tenet in energy delivery is ensuring the delivery of reliable, efficient, and affordable energy. This can be done by integrating modern efficiencies and renewable energies into energy systems to help go beyond the scope of basic infrastructure and operations.[1] The goal is to integrate Internet of Things (“IoT”) technologies and associated business processes to both turn the lights on, and more importantly, keep them on, as efficiently as possible.

Is the Grid Already Smart?

The electrical grid is an interconnected network of generation, transmission, and distribution elements that delivers electricity from suppliers to consumers. The “smart grid” generally refers to technology people are using to bring utility electricity delivery systems into the next century using computer-based remote control and automation, both on the utility side of the meter as well as the customer side of the meter. These systems are possible because the grid is becoming computerized and smart meters are being utilized. While smart meters are not grids themselves[2], smart meters are digital meters that enable two-way communication between the meter and the central system, as well as between the meter and consumers’ end use appliances. This allows clarity as to how we consume energy at a granular level to increase our understanding of how we consume energy.

What will Smart Grid Technology Yield?

Ideally, the smart grid will provide utilities, industry stakeholders, and ultimately customers with a stable, secure energy infrastructure. A reliable, trackable electric grid would allow experts to model scenarios that assess and identify which investments in generation and transmission provide the greatest reliability and cost savings. For instance, the industry utilizes a value-based planning process that is designed to handle planned and unplanned changes to the grid using diverse planning scenarios that look years into the future.[3] In order to optimize planning and infrastructure implementation, the technology, such as smart meters, provides meter data streams through sensors that support demand response, voltage management, outage management, accelerated restoration and overall operational efficiency.[4]

The data generated by the improvements in the smart grid will allow an understanding of the interdependencies in the built environment. The Smart Cities Council notes that three intersections stand out: communications, transportation and the built environment.[5] In optimizing planning and infrastructure development utilizing the data streams that the smart grid presents, IoT will allow stakeholders to address these intersectionalities and align interests and needs using the data generated by the smart grid. For instance, a city could control and monitor its energy assets and determine how best to utilize the data on a real-time basis to ensure the reliability of energy delivery and asses the condition of the energy infrastructure. Having a baseline of the footprint, and the metrics to support the condition of the assets, will allow the city to optimize the deployment of those assets.

Conclusion

Many people do not think about the role of rules and regulations in the smart grid sector. These intelligent devices and networked operations, in addition to advancing planning and strategy in the effort to provide for reliable, efficient, and affordable delivery of energy, can be used to create a uniform basis for the development of common standards necessary to maintain the system and interconnection without risking safety and grid stability.[6] While standards organizations have been tasked with developing specifications, and certain interconnection standards have been established, there are numerous opportunities to achieve cohesive regulation using the data generated by these smart sensors.

Smart grid policy considerations include aligning performance measures with desired outcomes that can be verified through performance-based measures.[7] Using consumption data from the smart grid will allow stakeholders to determine if and how these standards can be met. Proactively including the metrics from distributed generation (small decentralized power sources or on-site generation connected to the utility system)[8] will allow the development of standards that prepare for the use of additional distributed energy resources. Without the supporting metrics, parties remain concerned that as the technology develops the rules and regulations could remain a patchwork that does not embrace the existing technology and hamper development of new technologies.

As a business adding value to the energy sector by contributing to IoT for smart grid technology, or as a stakeholder, you can understand the data developed by these technologies to optimize your priorities as the smart grid develops, making sure your perspective is integrated into the regulatory solutions being developed at the state and federal level to create a standard platform. Having a solid grasp of the metrics will enhance the standards selection process and the regulations necessary to implement the system.

For more information on the IoT, contact Kristina M. Tridico or a member of our Internet of Things Industry Group.

This publication is intended for general information purposes only and does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. The reader should consult with legal counsel to determine how laws or decisions discussed herein apply to the reader’s specific circumstances.


[1] See: Lontoh, Sonita “What Does the Internet of Things Mean for the Energy Sector?” World Economic Forum, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/06/what-does-the-internet-of-things-mean-for-the-energy-sector/
[4] Deloitte University Press – The Power is On: How IoT Technology is Driving Energy Information - The Internet of Things in the Electric Power Industry See: https://dupress.deloitte.com/dup-us-en/focus/internet-of-things/iot-in-electric-power-industry.html
[5] Readiness Guide, Energy, The Smart Cities Council, http://readinessguide.smartcitiescouncil.com/article/energy
[6] Deloitte University Press, p.14 “A lack of common standards makes it extremely difficult to aggregate data, while nonstandard control and monitoring signals make widespread DER [distributed energy resources] difficult to integrate into the grid.”
[7] See NRDC Issue Brief, “The Promise of the Smart Grid: Goals, Policies, and Measurement Must Support Sustainability Benefits October 2012 IB:12-08-A, pg. 7.
[8] These can utilize a variety of inputs such as liquid biofuels, natural gas, solar, wind and geothermal. See https://www.smartgrid.gov/the_smart_grid/renewable_energy.html

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