Smart Grid Blood on the Floor in DC (1 of 3)
Sunday, October 4, 2009 at 02:31PM
Toby Considine in Enterprise Interaction, Intelligent Buildings, Smart Grid, Standards

This is the first of three planned posts on the outcome of the conference last week in Virginia. This one deals with semantic issues. The next one deals with business model issues. The third will be my perspective on critical standards, updating my earlier musing on SGIX.

Thirty ornery smart grid partisans gathered outside DC last week for a hastily convened review of the customer oriented standards development plans. To one side, the plans developed at the August Standards Development Organization (SDO) was putting critical ongoing deployments of billions of dollars infrastructure upgrades at risk, and throwing long term plans into disarray (Team A). The other side saw keeping the August plans intact necessary to enable new investment and new participation in distributed energy, and to break the iron grip of dinosaur twentieth century processes and organizations that impede new energy (Team B). There was little common ground.

The NIST smart grid process identified a number of Priority Action Plans (PAPs). Four of these defined the border between energy supplier and buyer in the smart grid. These communications occur between utility and end node, whether that node is house, or commercial building or industry. These standards are for Price and Product communication (PAP03), Calendar and Schedule communication (PAP04), Energy Usage information (PAP10), and communications for Demand Response and Distributed Energy Resources (PAP09).

The first morning passed with quiet platitudes, until Dr. David Wolman, technical lead for NIST on its smart grid project, called for "blood on the floor" during the afternoon session. The participants complied with enthusiasm, and the conversations became more interesting and more revealing.

Power system engineering standards are developed in the IEC TC 57, the overarching technical committee (TC) defining standards for power management. TC 57 has defined a common information model (CIM); and utilities are striving to rationalize their world by using only elements defined in “The CIM.” Some of the suspicion with which building systems technologists regard the CIM is due to a historic tendency to fit all building operations into the TC 57 CIM

Representatives from the end nodes, particularly commercial buildings and the business enterprise, do not see their world as an extension of the power grid. These areas have their own information models and find the phrase “The CIM” mysterious and unhelpful. Financial services use a CIM defined by ISO 20022. Building systems have information models defined within the divers building control system communities. Enterprise operations beginning to define their interactions using information models from defined by EBXML (electronic business XML) or UBL (Universal Business Language).

The first key agreement of the two days of meetings was to respect the multiple information models on these inter-domain interfaces. For elements and communications that are purely power management related, everyone agreed to use to use the TC 57 CIM. When the communication element involved business transactions, or schedules, or some other area, the communication would use the informational models from that domain.

A common understanding on semantic models, including when to use such models from outside the domain of power management, was important to bringing the divers interests together.

Article originally appeared on New Daedalus (
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