Shift from ‘command and control’ to ‘inform and motivate’ approach for smart grid proposed


Palo Alto, CA, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — March 4, 2010 – A shift in approach from designing control systems to a focus on enabling technology utilizing smart grid communications holds a key to a larger door into the smart grid revolution, with the expansion of grid technology allowing us to consider a focus on “motivation in lieu of commands” and “information as an alternative to control.”

This is according to a new white paper from EPRI, “Concepts to Enable Advancement of Distributed Energy Resources,” which claims to offer an update to the tra¬ditional control-based thinking with an approach that enables independent development of smart grid products.

When the concept of a smart grid is discussed, it is typically envi¬sioned to utilize modern communication technology to control more products, devices, or systems in an effort to synchronize genera¬tion and demand, the white paper says. However, there are caveats with an approach that could involve moving critical decision making about the operation of a device or a system to an off-premise third party. Along with becoming the surrogate control system, comes responsibility for product durability, safety, customer satisfaction, service and main¬tenance.

The designers of customer products and systems spend significant resources to optimize the operation of their products via proprietary control designs. However, a few simple changes in the way the product or system is allowed to operate, done by an indepen¬dent external control system, can negate the goals of the product design. It quickly becomes cumbersome to assume that the ex¬ternal control systems can not only become intelligent enough to accurately manage the third party devices but also keep up with innovative changes in the products at the end nodes of the grid.

The approach, named the Resource Energy Controller-Virtual End Node (REC-VEN) concept, is aimed at offering a simple but workable approach for management of onsite or remote resources of both a similar and non-similar nature in a device independent manner. In the emerging smart grid system, there are key elements to provide “smartness” for the power grid that reside at the end nodes. The devices and systems at these end nodes can utilize information exchanges with a resource energy controller to modify energy consumption based on the information exchanged.

According to the white paper this re-focused approach not only enables obsolescence issues to be addressed, but also enables the continuous improvement and innovation upon which the economy depends. Replacement of the “command and control” approach with an “inform and motivate” approach allows the customer and the power grid to interoperate with full transparent, extensible, and scalable interoperability.

Further, the concept opens a doorway enabling a device manufacturer to design their product or system to be qualified as a virtual end node that is able to participate in any larger smart grid entity above it without fear of obsolescence. Small devices should be able to participate alone or as part of a larger aggregate of resources.

These truly “smart” elements of the grid simplify distributed energy resources and accelerate development of the smart grid enabled products we eagerly await, the white paper concludes.