Cleantech Market Intelligence
Building a Foundation for the Next Phase of Smart Grid Deployments
In June PennEnergy announced that the Cisco Connected Grid Field Area Network (FAN) solution won top honors at the Utilities Telecom Council 2012 conference in the Smart Grid/Smart Meter Product & Services category. According to Cisco, the solution is the first multiservice communications infrastructure for utility field area networks. Using a common network platform, it can deliver advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), distribution automation (DA), and protection and control applications.
Why is this more than just an industry pat on the back?
Thought leaders focused on grid modernization have been talking about the importance of interoperability for years, and for just as long, standards bodies have been working to drive progress. The concept is simple: As every architectural engineer knows, without a solid foundation, most structures will eventually collapse. And as every utility stakeholder knows, no single vendor can deliver everything to the enterprise; mixed vendor environments are virtually assured, and without true interoperability the risk of stranding investments is high. Interoperability defines the foundation upon which the smart grid must stand, avoiding rapid obsolescence of grid components, driving down costs, and providing the ability to securely leverage technological advances.
Itron and Cisco have been working since 2010 on a delivering a secure, scalable, open, interoperable architecture that can support the monitoring and control of distribution networks. Itron announced earlier this year that it has brought this system to market with a deployment at BC Hydro, marking a move away from purpose-built systems in utility environments. If the project is successful, BC Hydro will be able to drive down operational expenses and achieve a long-standing industry goal – a true plug-and-play smart grid. BC Hydro is anticipating that it will be able to save customers $1.6 billion over the next 20 years, having a flexible system that can evolve with new utility applications.
Cisco’s award at UTC 2012 serves as a valuable reminder for smart grid vendors and implementers: Standards and interoperable systems delivered on open standards are still fundamentally important to the vision of the utility grid. And it’s just getting started. Industry partnerships that focus on the functional integration of applications that support the more efficient use of energy from the power plant to the customer, like the one between Cisco and Itron, are the key to moving beyond frameworks to reality.