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EMAIL INTERVIEW Steve Widergren & Ken Sinclair
Steve Widergren is the Administrator for the GridWise Architecture Council, a group of 13 respected experts with the objective to improve the interoperation of all elements of the electric system. This includes building and factory automation, communications, electric utility automation, as well as the economic and regulatory environment in which they do business. This group is support by the United States Department of Energy through Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
Grid Interop: Closing the “Distance to Integrate”
If you think of the effort to make automation systems interact as a “distance to integrate,” then the objective of the Grid Interop meeting is to engage business leaders and integration technologists across the electric system community to develop actionable steps that close or reduce the distance to integrate.
Sinclair:: The visibility and support on display at GridWeek for a “smart grid” (See articles below) that allows resources such as building energy management systems to participate in the operation of a digitally connected electric system demonstrates that concepts being promoted by such groups as the GridWise™ Alliance and the GridWise Architecture Council (GWAC) are catching on. When we talked last April, you had recently concluded a workshop on an interoperability framework to facilitate dialogue on how to advance interconnectivity between the growing numbers of automation systems and were planning future meetings. How’s that progressing?
Widergren: The attention the smart grid received at GridWeek and in the press has been great. The drivers for change, in particular, high fuel costs, our dependency on foreign energy sources, and environmental issues associated with fossil fuels, have heightened the interest of policymakers and businesses to look hard at the smart grid concepts as one the few choices that can help address the situation. All of a sudden, people are becoming aware of the importance of getting the automation resources of the smart grid to connect and talk to each other. The interoperability framework document you refer to is being revised to incorporate several improvements we gathered from the workshop. Based on the workshop results, we also just announced a call for papers asking integrators, technologists, business leaders, and policy makers to contribute their ideas about important interoperability problems and how they might be addressed. These will be used to organize the first Grid Interop forum.
Sinclair:: Tell us more about the Grid Interop meeting.
Widergren: Grip Interop will be held in Albuquerque, New Mexico on the 7th to 9th of November, 2007. If you think of the effort to make automation systems interact as a “distance to integrate,” then the objective of the Grid Interop meeting is to engage business leaders and integration technologists across the electric system community to develop actionable steps that close or reduce the distance to integrate.
Sinclair:: As an example, are you talking about how to make building energy management systems talk more easily with electric service provider systems?
Widergren: Absolutely, today very few buildings exchange information digitally with their electricity provider. Contracts are set up manually for flat or sometimes time of use rates, both sides read their own meters, and bills are sent through the mail to reconcile energy usage. But suppose contract selection is done on-line and offers choices such as real-time rates and emergency services. Once the building manager selects a contract, the building system automatically configures itself to connect to the energy provider information system to periodically exchange metered data and pricing information. The building system adjusts demand, balancing the needs of the business with the price of energy. Once a month the building manager electronically receives his electricity bill, reconciles it with his own measurement log and authorizes accounts receivable to make the electronic funds transfer. Today the distance to integrate these business processes overwhelms the benefits, but if we can resolve issues such as how to represent electronically contract terms, agree on what the terms mean, and unambiguously specify the communication interface between the parties, then the effort to have a building interact with the power system can become fast, reliable, and economic.
Sinclair:: That’s quite a picture, but how do you see the Grid Interop meeting achieving this objective?
Widergren: I didn’t say it would be easy, but a key step in the process is building awareness of the importance of interoperability. We plan to have a half day of seminars and educational discussion about interoperability, followed by one and one half days of panel discussions and interactive discussions about impediments and possible ways to address them. Targeted interest groups will look at integration between the electric system, buildings, and manufacturing systems, as well as business and regulatory concerns. Closing the distance to integrate will involve many stakeholders coming together around a common cause. The interoperability workshop has already started conversations between the buildings and electric power communities.
Sinclair:: How can interested parties participate?
Widergren: Please read the Grid Interop call for papers and submit an abstract by July 30th. The papers we receive will feed the panel sessions and interactive roundtables at the meeting. This is a great opportunity for people with ideas and the desire to make a difference to take an active position in the meeting. We plan to help meeting participants to follow-up on actions derived from the sessions, and we hope that this Grid Interop meeting is just the first of many.
GWAC information including the Grid Interop Call for Papers: www.gridwiseac.org
GWAC Interoperability Context-setting Framework draft document: http://www.gridwiseac.org/pdfs/interopframework_v05%20070129.pdf
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