Overlaying the power grid with a communications and control network will provide utilities with terrific new business capabilities. The Smart Grid figures to enable utilities to more effectively offset service theft, to monitor for and blunt the impact of outages, to better foresee and accommodate spikes in user demand with the rollout of demand-
management applications and incentives and to more fully leverage a broader range of distributed sources of power. Furthermore, business models, strategies and relationships could be created or fundamentally reshaped depending on ownership, privacy and security regulations associated with grid-utilization data.

The Smart Grid also brings with it new challenges for utilities in terms of data management.

Data is certainly not a new concern for utilities, as they have for some years dealt in tremendous volumes of real-time and historical, static and dynamic operational data. The Smart Grid definitely raises the ante, however. In the next-generation grid, arrays of data might ultimately be coming in to utilities from a rapidly expanding range of distributed generators of power (including small-scale storage facilities such as electric- vehicle batteries), from neighboring utilities and regional transmission organizations (RTOs), from across a massive advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) … even from every electrical outlet in use across business and residential users. That means billions of data points to be instantaneously processed, coordinated, manipulated and interpreted if utilities are to take full advantage of the resource.

And, in turn, that means there is plenty of work to be done now—by utilities and the industry serving them, as well as the global standards-development community. At the most basic level, utilities will require Smart Grid communications infrastructures of new levels of capacity and capability to meet the bandwidth, latency and other performance requirements they will face.

Specifically, Smart Grid meter-data management (MDM) will demand not only expansion of utilities’ data storage and processing, but also introduction of powerful back-office capabilities. Applications of this order would allow utilities to extract useful business meaning from the raw event data collected from the field and to drive asset and customer-relationship management.

Data security will be an ongoing, evolving challenge in the Smart Grid, as utilities will have to adopt a posture to constantly address new threats to the availability, confidentiality and integrity of their highly sensitive information assets.

Another major concern will be data reliability. With power infrastructure under the automated control of communications and Information Technology (IT) infrastructure, the reliability of the data upon which those communications and IT resources act must be dependable.

The Smart Grid’s influx of data has significant implications for standards-development organizations (SDOs), as well.

IEEE is home to more than 100 Smart Grid standards and standards in development. The IEEE P2030 Working Group, for example, has worked since its launch in March 2009 to document the gathering Smart Grid’s requirements in terms of interconnection and interoperability interfaces among existing and emerging information assets and
applications. The IEEE P2030 “Draft Guide for Smart Grid Interoperability of Energy Technology and Information Technology Operation With the Electric Power System (EPS), and End-Use Applications and Loads” is in IEEE sponsor balloting today, and it is targeted for ratification as a standard this year.

Plenty of additional standards work will be required in the coming decades of the global Smart Grid movement, and the sprawling question of data management is sure to be one of the key areas of development.