No grid stability and resilience without smart meter standards

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Peter Jensen, the Chair of IEC Technical Committee 13, which provides standardisation for electric meters inside the International Electrotechnical Commission, answers questions relating to smart meter standards and future requirements.

How important are smart meters in helping grids to remain resilient and provide electricity for all despite increasing demand?

In developed countries, the smart meter has evolved from a simple billing device to becoming an integral part of the electricity network, monitoring energy levels and helping with load management. Carrying out advanced load control schemes is a cornerstone for building resilient grids with a capacity to support a high ratio of local renewable production as well as dynamic loads such as electric vehicle (EV) charging. Tomorrow this will be taken to another level as more and more battery storage will allow the import of energy to the grid for commercial purposes and also to support it when needed to avoid energy shortages.

In developing countries, one major issue for utilities is still the high level of non-technical losses and unpaid bills. These lower the capacity of utilities to invest in modernising the grid for instance and, over time, this can lead to a significant rise in outages. Various technical means have been integrated into the electricity meter to deal with this issue. An extremely efficient first step, which is being continuously improved, is the use of prepayment metering. With the new generation of connected smart meters, fraud detection can be taken to another level, using advanced data analytics. However, we can’t ignore that social aspects are also extremely important and how different countries tackle the topic varies considerably.

How has the scope of IEC TC 13 evolved over the years? What are the key challenges?

Peter Jensen, chair of IEC Technical Committee 13

IEC TC 13 has always played a central role as the standardisation body for electricity measurement used for billing and load control. Many of our standards are stable workhorses that have been used for decades and have evolved to keep up with the latest technologies to include environmental conditions and electromagnetic compatibility changes.

The advent of smart metering and the massive deployments of that technology around the world have created new challenges for us. Many countries base their legal frameworks on our standards and use them for various tenders. This means that, typically, when utilities or meter operators deploy meter systems, they can only use products that have been certified according to IEC standards.

The IEC 62056 smart meter standardisation framework for electricity metering data exchange, also known as the DLMS/COSEM™ suite, has been designed to be very flexible. A good example of the flexibility offered by this framework is that without changing the base of the standard, extensions have been made to support various communication profiles, amongst the most recent in the market.

Products that are compliant with IEC TC 13 standards include interoperability and the highest possible level of cybersecurity, which are essential requirements for utilities and meter operators. However, some of the biggest challenges may lie ahead of us. The rapid evolution in several application areas, in particular smart grids, the EV charging infrastructures and flexible load control, require metering, not only for billing purposes but also to control and certify energy services are delivered. This requires setting up a good working relationship with other TCs to coordinate the work and make sure that standards are published in a timely matter as expected by the market.

As electric mobility is an important future topic for standardisation, it’s essential that IEC standards cover all areas, including billing and certification of charging services. IEC TC 13 Standards already cover a good part of what is required, but we know that complements are needed for our standards to fully satisfy these requirements.

Another important task is to make sure that IEC TC 13 standards are used globally to support requirements from regional markets.

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TC 13 collaborates with IEC TC 57, TC 8, TC 69 and the Systems Committee for Smart Energy (SyC SE). Can you update us on that work?

IEC TC 13 has traditionally been close to TC 57 as this is our natural link to the electricity network. TC 57 prepares key standards for the smart grid, dealing with substation automation or edge device integration. In terms of collaboration, we have recently revived a joint working group in charge of mapping between the common information model (CIM), defined in IEC TC 57 standards and our DLMS/COSEM™ data models and message profiles.

The collaboration with IEC TC 8, which standardises system aspects of electrical energy supply, and IEC TC 69, which develops standards concerning energy transfer systems for EVs, is more recent and has been initiated through the System Committee Smart Energy (SyC SE). We now have liaisons set up with these two TCs and expect to start the work of providing support from TC 13 over the next year.

What are the priorities for TC 13 in terms of standardisation projects? Is cybersecurity important?

IEC TC 13 organised its latest plenary meeting in April this year and this allowed us to review our work programme for the period to come. For instance, we have standards for multi-energy multi-tariff metering coming out. Another priority remains the update of the DLMS/COSEM™ communication standards (IEC 62056 parts 5-3, 6-1 and 6-2). Beyond the work programme, we are now an active member of the SyC SE, which will allow us to coordinate with other TCs. This should provide a base for the extension of our activities, which in turn will lead to an update of our projects and work programme.

Cybersecurity is a key area when deploying smart meters as they are part of the critical infrastructure of an electricity network. TC 13 has the perpetual task of keeping up with the latest knowledge in this area and ensuring that we include state-of-the-art technology in our standards. The IEC 62056 series of standards defines application-layer security based on best-in-class solutions.

Just looking at how the chapters on cybersecurity have grown in our standards proves the importance of the topic. We also will continue to cooperate with other TCs in this area. Finally, one of the challenges for us all is to recruit and retain top cybersecurity experts in areas related to the grid.

Peter Jensen is taking part in the Hub session ‘Enabling successful utility digitalization programmes – A strategy for success’ at Enlit Europe in Milan from 30 November to 02 December.

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