Department of Energy

Internet of Things-enabled Devices and the Grid

June 1, 2017

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It seems like you can’t go a week without encountering another article on the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT, the interconnection of physical devices, vehicles, buildings, and other items that have the capacity to send and receive data, offers the promise of new, advanced services stemming from new connections between the virtual and physical world based on improved communication and control technologies. This two-way communication has been a key component of DOE’s grid modernization efforts, from previous Smart Grid work to today’s Grid Modernization Initiative (GMI).

IoT offers new opportunities for consumers to engage with the power sector even as it offers better opportunities for improved efficiency and performance across the power grid. Through the IoT, advanced sensors can gather new data from grid assets to give grid operators better insight into infrastructure performance; controls can work across the transmission and distribution systems that are responsive to changing grid conditions, based on shifting generation mixes, physical conditions, or security threats; and consumers can engage and make better choices on their unique energy needs.

Utilities, businesses, research organizations, consumer advocacy groups, and DOE have been working across the electricity system to research, develop, and apply advanced communications and controls technologies to improve reliability, efficiency, and security of the U.S. grid. IoT and its associated communications overlay of the electric grid is changing all aspects of grid planning and operations, including new requirements for interoperability, cybersecurity, and the management of new troves of big data from advanced meters and sensors. The increased integration of distributed energy resources, buildings, vehicles, and energy storage into the grid requires the grid to be more responsive than ever to fast-changing conditions to ensure Americans have access to reliable, safe, and affordable energy.

Within GMLC, there are multiple projects working to realize the opportunities from IoT. For example:

  • Vehicle to Building Integration Pathway is working to develop standardized and interoperable communications and controls between Plug-In Electric Vehicles, Electric Vehicle Support Equipment, and Building/Campus Energy Management Systems to integrate distributed energy resources, buildings, and vehicles.
  • Cybersecurity for Renewables, Distributed Energy Resources, and Smart Inverters is working to develop a holistic attack-resistant architecture and layered cyber-physical solution portfolio to protect the critical power grid infrastructure and integrated distributed energy resources from malicious cyber attacks.
  • Unified Control of Connected Loads to Provide Grid Services, Novel Energy Management, and Improved Energy Efficiency is developing and deploying retrofit control technology that increases the operational flexibility of loads in commercial buildings that will reduce peak demand, reduce energy losses, and improve energy efficiency.
  • Interoperability is articulating general interoperability requirements along with methodologies and tools for simplifying the integration and cyber-secure interaction among the various devices and systems that constitute the electric power grid.
  • Grid Architecture is working to develop reference grid architectures for the utility industry and stakeholders to provide a common basis for roadmaps, investments, technology and platform developments, and new capabilities, products, and services for the modernized grid.