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The Power Industry and the Smart Grid

The Smart Grid is a national initiative to rebuild the nation’s aging power grid, technologies, marketing, management, and utilization infrastructures to more effectively utilize the expanding power resources, interoperable services, and state-of-the-art technologies to better meet the future power demands within the United States. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) made it the policy of the United States to modernize the nation’s electricity transmission and distribution system to create a smart electric grid.

Under EISA, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) was assigned primary responsibility to coordinate development of a framework to achieve interoperability of Smart Grid devices and systems to organization. NIST has been and continues to be instrumental in this regard; defining architectures and frameworks, developing standards, as well as coordinating development activities to help make the Smart Grid initiative a success. At NIST, development of the architectural framework and interoperability standards to support implementation of the Smart Grid is being led by the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP).

Conceptual Models

The following diagram identifies the top level domains of the Smart Grid Conceptual Model as defined by NIST. The Conceptual Model forms a basis for discussing the characteristics, interfaces, requirements, and uses of the Smart Grid. In addition, it also helps to identify communication paths amongst the top level domains, and potential applications to support the Smart Grid.

Smart Grid - Conceptual Model
Smart Grid Conceptual Model (Source: NIST Framework, V2)

The high-level conceptual model for the Smart Grid identifies seven (7) domains that interact with other domains through interfaces. It is important to note that domains are NOT organizations. These represent logical domains based on the present and near-term view of the power grid. In the future, some of the domains may either combine with another domain or no longer be identified as a domain.

Each top-level domain has additional interactions and details within the domain, and is identified in the corresponding domain model. The purpose of the domain models is to provide the frameworks for discussing both the existing power system and the evolving Smart Grid.

The following reference diagram identifies many of the current communication paths between and within domains. Today, a wide-variety of processes, applications, and functions are supported independently, and often using dedicated networks to support the control and management of power generation, transmission and distribution, and consumption. These existing frameworks and communications must be improved to bring about a reliable and secure infrastructure to support interoperable Smart Grid operations.

Smart Grid - Conceptual Reference Diagram
Conceptual Reference Diagram for Smart Grid Networks (Source: NIST Framework, V2)

It is easy to see the complexity of the interactions and communications that are needed to support today’s power system environment. Although, one should take note that this diagram is also at a high-level. There are many other processes, communications, applications, and systems that are required to effectively manage today’s power infrastructure.

The Smart Grid is a network of networks comprising many systems and subsystems. As such, the wide number of technical obstacles to overcome, as well as development and implementation of the growing functional requirements can pose significant challenges for any one technology vendor. NIST, in conjunction with the SGIP, has open the way for multiple technology vendors to coordinate their activities to better support the wide-reaching development efforts associated with the Smart Grid initiative.

Learn more about the Smart Grid initiatives, technologies, and challenges at

SoftRoots – A Technology Innovator

SoftRoots has been actively involved with supporting the power industry since the early days of deregulation. Back in 1995, the company developed one of the first successful OASIS Nodes for the US Department of Energy. Since then, we have designed and developed a number of solutions to support wholesale power markets and operations, including; web-based portals, back-end applications, distributed information systems, custom web services, as well as data exchanges and security implementations.

The company strives to stay abreast of current technologies and developments to support the evolving power industry. As such, the technical challenges and solutions to support the Smart Grid initiative is a “passion” of ours, which will drive our development ambitions and innovations for years to come.

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