May 2009

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SGIX – Smart Grid Information Exchange

Some feel that direct control of tomorrow’s smart buildings must be in the hands of the utilities. I feel that that building owners must be in control.

Toby ConsidineToby Considine
Systems Specialist,
Facility Services, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
The New Daedalus

Contributing Editor

The smart grid is one of the more exciting efforts of today, one that reaches beyond the utilities and into the buildings. The smart grid moves beyond traditional demand response to using direct system integration between the systems of the power grid and those in buildings. But what does this interface look like? Who will control the interaction, the building owner, or the utility?

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One challenge for the smart grid is that alternative energy will make the energy supply much less reliable than today. The sun and the wind are replacing reliable, predictable power sources. The building may get energy from the poorly maintained building systems next door rather than from the reliable generator in the next county. Those who operate the grid are rightfully concerned about quality of power and speed of performance when buildings respond to their requests to shed load, or when buildings place new stress on the grid by selling back power stored earlier or produced by uncertain means.

Some feel that direct control of tomorrow’s smart buildings must be in the hands of the utilities. I feel that that building owners must be in control, for they understand how the needs of the building occupants change each day. Readers of Automated Buildings produce the technologies and integrate the systems that can put the owners in control. If given pure economic signals, owners will invest in the systems they need to create the enterprise responsive building, ready and able to negotiate with the grid. These interactions will have to be automated. They will include automated interaction with the building systems we have today as well as new systems for generation and storage as they become available. For some buildings, these interactions will become a significant revenue stream.

Other buildings will leave these interactions to the utilities. Minimal systems that respond to direct control will meet the needs of the smart grid, and pay little heed to the ever changing needs of the building occupants.

The development of standards for these interactions has top level attention from across the Obama administration; never before has a president focused so strong a personal attention on standards development. Events are happening far faster than the usual slow pace of innovation and renovation in buildings. This article offers a personal view of how the standards on the edge of the grid may develop. These standards will offer the messages the gird needs, and measure the response from those buildings.

Overview and Goals

The smart grid roadmap is defining the realm of standards which will operate the smart grid, and interact with the smart energy on the nodes on the edge of the grid. Smart energy nodes (meaning buildings) may generate and store energy as well as respond to the demand response signals from the grid. The smart grid will be based upon standards for improved interoperability for digital telemetry and real time operations. To meet the goals of the smart grid, we need to look ahead to the higher level business interoperability that will enable innovation and new markets.

The smart grid is more than improved top down control; it is a grid ready for unreliable energy sources (such as wind, waves, and sun), distributed generation, and Net Zero Energy (NZE) buildings. NZE buildings sometimes buy energy, sometimes sell energy, and energy use balances out over the day, season, or year. The NZE building presents particular problems as it may switch from buying energy one minute, and selling energy the next. Plug-in electric vehicles, whether hybrid or not, present challenges similar to those of NZE buildings, with the added complexity of mobility. The smart grid requires distributed decision making, distributed responsibility for reliability, and easy interoperability to integrate an ever-changing mix of technologies.

The smart grid will be transactional, with each decision to buy or sell power a separate transaction at a separate price. The price of these transactions will vary dynamically, as a live energy market determines the clearing price at each moment for each sale or purchase. The smart grid will be open and transparent, wherein consumers can choose what kind of power to buy, and providers can prove that they are selling the kind of power they promise.

Alex Levinson of Lockheed Martin has named the suite of standards we will need for the smart grid Smart Grid Information Exchange (SGIX). What follows is a straw man view of SGIX, including information about some new standards that are just underway. These interfaces will use the semantics of the CIM while using the applying the e-commerce disciplines of symmetry, transparency, and composition.

1.     SG-Energy Interoperation

OpenADR is a tested specification for achieving automated demand response to meet the needs of the regulated utilities in California. The work done on OpenADR at the University of California's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory ( ) is being developed for possible use as a national standard in OASIS. Mary Ann Piette and her team have been working with William Cox to develop a charter for this technical committee.

This work will include a change of focus to embrace enterprise interactions as well. By including the enterprise inhabiting a building, factory, or home in the message, we anticipate being able to induce a larger response and wider participation.  The committee will also draw upon European work in transmission, distribution, and cooperative energy use, and will include discussion of security and privacy requirements.

The OASIS committee for Energy Interoperation will convene on the morning of May 1, and is actively seeking participants. A parallel effort launching within UCA will offer advice and support to the OASIS work.

2.     SG-Energy Market Information Exchange

The charter for Energy Market Information Exchange (EMIX) is in pre-public circulation and is drawing interest from the market makers of the grid, the ISOs (independent system operators) and RTOs (regional transmission organizations) as well as building system integrators. Energy Market Information Exchange will be chartered to produce an XML vocabulary for exchanging price and energy characteristics (hydro, hard coal, nuclear, wind, etc, with a place for carbon information) to facilitate energy markets and device understanding/communication of so-called Real Time Pricing or Dynamic Pricing.

A goal of EMIX is to interact easily with financial and commodity market mechanisms such as the Financial Information Exchange (FixML) and cell phone instant provisioning protocols. EMIX also anticipates the development of new energy products that allow energy choice based on environmental issues as well as price (the energy attributes portion).

The draft charter (and the approach) drew a great deal of attention at GridEcon in mid-March, including an evening session on pricing and markets. EMIX will be announcing its convening meeting within the month.

3.     Ancillary Energy Standards

Enterprise standards are composed of smaller standards. Composition improves interoperability and discoverability. The descriptions below are a personal view on how these ancillary standards might develop. Where indicated, these smaller standards are likely to be developed as part of the work of the committees described above.

3.1          SG-Load Control

The OASIS standard oBIX offers an extensible WS framework for communication with building control systems. OBIX defined a concept of Contracts, used to define higher level interactions. The ASHRAE BACnet Load Control Object offers a model for building systems to report on their energy use, to negotiate responsiveness, and to make load shedding agreements. SG-Load Control would build on the BACnet model to define a web service standard for contacts as defined by oBIX. SG-Curtailment is part of the deliverable of the Energy Interoperability TC.

3.2          SG-Curtailment

Sometimes, no matter how you plan, stuff happens. The daily temperature is 5 degrees warmer than expected. The turbine seizes. A truck drives into the transmission tower. Shed load NOW! Prices and markets for curtailment have been evolving rapidly; perhaps this addresses the grid integrity issues more directly. SG-Curtailment is part of the deliverable of the Energy Interoperability TC.

3.3          SG-Quality Of Service (SG-QOS):

Participants in the smart grid must exchange information about reliability and performance. QOS information must be exchanged both as a promise and as a result. We may be able to adapt the Business Process QOS (BQOS) work from the SOA-EERP (End to End Resource Planning) technical committee. This work could fit in to either Energy Interoperability, as a component of demand response,

3.4          SG Pricing

Price is more than a number. If I ask you if prices are up or down at the store, the answer is not “7”. It is not “Tomatoes are $3.00.” The price is “$3.57 per pound for the organic vine-ripened greenhouse heritage Cherokee tomatoes.” Each buyer can choose which attributes affect his purchase decision. A buyer may chose the cheapest tomatoes. A buyer may choose to buy only organic. A buyer may grudgingly accept the only tomatoes available. SG Pricing will flow throughout the system—a model known as Prices to Devices. Under prices to devices, each system within a home or building may make its own decisions based upon budget and priority. SG-Pricing will be part of the SG Energy Market Information Exchange TC.

3.5          SG-Power Quality (SG-PQ):

Power of poor reliability, or with poor phase control, will receive a lower price on the market. Power of poor quality pollutes the energy market on the grid and increases expenses for everyone. SG-PQ will describe the attributes of power quality, and the PQ message payload will be included in price and in settlement of transactions on the grid. Using the OASIS approach of composition in standards to increase interoperability and discoverability, G-PQ should be incorporated into Market Information (EMIX) and Energy Interoperability standards.

3.6          SG Transaction

This is a simple standard of energy flows by time slice. It also includes direction, as power may flow one way for a time, and then the other in a distributed world. To achieve transparent clearing markets, SG-Metering report what amount of what kind of power was purchased at what price at what time. If my neighbor and I buy the same amount of power at the same time, we may pay different prices because we may have made different decisions on how to buy. I may owe to my utility or to my neighbor for that purchase of solar power. SG-Transaction is in effect the accounting journal entry for each purchase or sale of energy.

4.     Other enterprise standards of interest to the smart grid

One of the benefits of composition is that it enables interoperability between systems that only need to know a part of the message to perform their tasks. Coordination, measurement, and accounting are examples of where this sort of interoperability is useful.

Most of those that follow are standards that would be shared with the enterprise, and used for coordinated enterprise interoperation, except the rest of the enterprise lacks them as well.

4.1          UnitsML

UnitsML offers an unambiguous way to describe all physical measurements, and an unambiguous ability for a computer to look up the translation of any units of measure to any other units. SG-Pricing, SG-Transaction, and Energy Market Information Exchange will use UnitsML. UnitsML is an existing OASIS committee with NIST backing which will need some assistance and wider participation to complete.

4.2          WS-Calendar

We all use ICALENDAR (IETF RFC 2445, to unambiguously exchange information about time intervals. You used it the last time you clicked on an email attachment and suddenly had a meeting on your personal calendar. We need the same functionality standardized for web services. We will use it as part of pricing, and weather predictions, building management, and other decisions. WS-Calendar should be developed outside the SG effort as its anticipated uses extend into many business interactions.

4.3          Digital Weather Markup Language

DWML is an existing specification developed by NOAA. NOAA offers a web service to which one can submit a longitude and latitude and receive in reply a DWML forecast. Most forward forward-looking energy markets are based on assumptions about weather. Most historical analysis of energy use includes recalling the weather environment. The most successful energy middleman base their business on understanding microclimates. We need to define a DWML profile for reporting as well as forecasting, to enable the exchange of actual conditions as well as forecasts. Such a profile would be used when querying local weather stations and even personal weather systems. Such a standard should include UnitsML (for internationalization) as well as time (WS-Calendar). We should encourage NOAA to develop the DWML specification into a standard; DWML also is of interest to the Emergency Response community.

4.4          WS-DD and WS-DP

Device discovery and device profiles have been used in computer networking for some time. These specifications for the web services implementation are going to a standards vote in May. A major manufacturer of electrical equipment has already announce that they will include WS-DD and WS DP for all the equipment it sells. There are open source implementations for small devices (  I think they will have a big role in the future world of distributed generation and Net Zero Energy facilities.

4.5          SensorML

Is this the time that the standard for remote sensing markup language comes into its own? The work will need to be finished, and brought though the standards process quickly if it is to be used in all the other standards.

5.     SG CyberSecurity

Cyber security is drawing more attention and concern every day. Today’s cybersecurity is concerned primarily with defending the isolated system with relatively static interactions. This sort of security is very much in the news following a much discussed Wall Street Journal report that the systems that operate utility distribution systems have been penetrated by foreign hackers. Tomorrow’s building systems will be integrated with grid systems, and communicating with the outside world. The unsecured and unpatched Windows 98 system in the janitor’s closet on the 3rd floor must be replaced with a modern system, fully patched, and ready to interact with the networked world.

Tomorrow's cybersecurity will apply to systems interacting with others owned by many different people, of uncertain skill and diligence in securing their own systems. (Think home generation and net zero energy systems). Security issues need to be integrated within every TC from the beginning—and not merely a veneer layered on after the fact. We need a separate security toolkit/framework, perhaps a profile from current fine-grained security standards, key management, and related areas. Broader integration of physical security, fine-grained networking and commercial security, and situation awareness technologies need to be part of the mix.

To get Involved

If you want to participate in this work, you can find out more at; I recommend you start with the OASIS Blue initiative. Many of the key participants will be in Silicon Valley at the beginning of June for Connectivity Week. Please feel free to contact me as well.


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