With the foremost objectives of today’s utility executives being focused on distribution grid reliability, reduction of operational costs and enhanced customer service/satisfaction, the need for a common set of open standards and interoperability guidelines to meet these objectives is paramount. While there are a plethora of existing ‘standards’ within the utility industry, they have historically been developed by either individual vendors, user groups or various consortiums – with the result being disparate ad hoc standards which often directly compete or have significant overlap.
Utility companies will be greatly served by aligning as an industry around a common set of standards and interoperability guidelines, much like their cable and data networking counterparts have in the past few years. This industry-wide approach has been proven to deliver rapid innovation, product interoperability and lower cost solutions. More important, it will enable utilities to avoid lock-in to a specific vendor or ad hoc standards that are not broadly accepted, and will protect against stranding assets.
Faced with similar market conditions, members of the cable television industry founded the Cable Television Laboratories, Inc. (CableLabs®) in 1988. CableLabs is non-profit research and development consortium that is dedicated to pursuing new cable telecommunications technologies and to helping its cable operator members integrate those technical advancements into their business objectives. As a direct result of this industry-wide approach, CableLabs was able to rapidly develop the CableLabs® Certified™ Cable Modem project, also known as DOCSIS® (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification), which defines interface requirements for cable modems involved in high-speed data distribution over cable television system networks. By adopting and enforcing an industry-wide set of standards and interoperability guidelines, cable operators dramatically lowered costs, allowed for heterogeneous networks, enabled ‘plug’n’play’ devices, and delivered a myriad of new products and service offerings to their customers.
ADVANCED METERING AND DEMAND RESPONSE
Utility executives are exploring many avenues to improve distribution grid reliability, reduce operational costs and enhance customer service. Advanced metering and demand response are two such initiatives that can have a dramatic impact on how a utility delivers its products and services. Demand response programmes involve customer load reduction through either curtailment or reduction in electricity use in response to price or control signals from distribution utilities or system operators.
Demand response programmes benefit all consumers by promoting efficiency and stability in electricity markets, while reducing the need for peaking generation and additional transmission/ distribution capacity.
Advanced metering provides a means to enable complex rate/billing structures for electricity consumption. Dynamic pricing of electricity to consumers (hour ahead or day ahead) via variable time-of-use rate structures, has proven to be an effective method of curtailing electricity demand and reducing load during peak periods in response to system reliability or market conditions.
FROM SIMPLE METER READING TO AN ADVANCED METERING INFRASTRUCTURE
Traditionally, advanced meter reading (AMR) solutions have been primarily designed to automate the manual process of meter reading and to improve the accuracy of the retrieved metering data for billing purposes. Because of their limited product focus, AMR systems are often stand-alone solutions that use proprietary components, protocols and data models – typically, the only published interfaces are to the AMR back office collection system and to its input/output file formats.
Given recent technology advances, it is now feasible to develop a low cost, two-way, networked, advanced meter for the residential consumer that provides full on-board metrology support for simple to complex rate structures, as well as power quality monitoring and recording – a ‘networked smart meter’ that can be securely updated, configured, monitored, read and managed remotely from the utility’s control centre. This combination of advanced metering and networking functionality is rapidly becoming known as advanced metering infrastructure (AMI).
This new category of networked smart meter offers utilities expanded possibilities. Besides offering a new service point demarcation, where the utility can provide the customer with enhanced energy information and management services, the networked smart meter can also be directly leveraged by other utility systems to support grid reliability programmes such as load control, outage/restoration management, volt/var control, distributed generation, and quality of service, to name a few.
While there are existing ANSI and IEC standards that define how to measure and record advanced metrological functions, there are no open standards-based common information models, reference design specifications and interoperability guidelines for implementing advanced metering infrastructure with demand response (AMI/DR). The absence of these open standards creates significant barriers to the effective integration of AMI/DR within the power distribution network. Their absence will lead to higher product costs, restrained innovation, lack of interoperability and a greater potential for stranding assets.
Timing is critical. The amount of standards definition work that needs to be done is more than any single vendor or utility can accomplish in the necessary timeframe. While the need to implement AMI/DR solutions is here today, new standards generally take at least three to five years to develop in most standards organisations.
DEVELOPING STANDARDS THROUGH OpenAMI
The OpenAMI Task Force1 is an international, utility-led, industry-wide initiative created to overcome the timing quandary. Its sole purpose is to rapidly develop a set of recommended open, standards-based information/data models, reference design specifications and interoperability guidelines for AMI/DR solutions. Upon completion of these common open standards-based specifications and interoperability guidelines, the OpenAMI Task Force will submit them to a relevant standards organisation for adoption and on-going development and management.
The objectives of the OpenAMI Task Force are to:
• Facilitate the broad adoption of advanced metering and demand response systems.
• Define what open standards are for advanced metering networks and demand response systems.
• Diminish technical and functional risk concerns for utilities, regulators and rate-payers.
• Empower consumers with tools to better understand and manage their energy use.
• Foster industry innovation, efficiency and lower cost solution.
Established in January 2005, the task force membership has quickly grown to an international group of over 125 members from eight utilities and seventy-eight vendors. The OpenAMI Task Force initiative is a collaborative effort and is open to any individual, corporate or government entity – any interested party is encouraged to join and contribute to the initiative.
Since its inception, the OpenAMI Task Force has already conducted four working sessions and numerous teleconferences. Work is done primarily during the meetings, and on-line through the task force’s collaboration website. The group is working to an aggressive schedule to deliver a final suite of recommended OpenAMI specifications by January 2006.
The current OpenAMI Task Force deliverables schedule is as follows:
• Draft Requirements Specifications are due August 30 2005
• Draft Information/Data Model Specifications are due September 30 2005
• Draft Reference Design Specifications due on October 31 2005
• Draft Interoperability Guidelines due on December 31 2005.
• Final OpenAMI Specifications will be posted on January 31 2006.
The OpenAMI Task Force developed a number of tools to facilitate this work. A new vision for the delivery of utility products and services in the future is needed. The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) calls it the 21st Century Transformation: The 21st Century Transformation represents a paradigm shift in which the central focus is placed on increasing the functionality and value of electricity rather than simply reducing its cost. The key instrument becomes the ability to access a growing array of consumer-based, electricity/information services whose value to consumers, society and suppliers alike, even initially, far outstrips the costs of transformation.
The goal of OpenAMI is to co-ordinate the rapid development of the standards, resulting in innovative products that improve business value for utilities, driving the broad deployment of AMI/DR. The standards development effort is underway.
The OpenAMI Task Force is sponsored by the UCA® International Users Group and has been organised under the newly formed UCA OpenDR (Demand Response) Subcommittee. The mission of The UCA® International Users Group is to enable utility integration through the deployment of open standards by providing a forum in which stakeholders can work together as members of a common organisation.