Computing Community Consortium Blog

The goal of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is to catalyze the computing research community to debate longer range, more audacious research challenges; to build consensus around research visions; to evolve the most promising visions toward clearly defined initiatives; and to work with the funding organizations to move challenges and visions toward funding initiatives. The purpose of this blog is to provide a more immediate, online mechanism for dissemination of visioning concepts and community discussion/debate about them.

“A Policy Framework for 21st Century Grid”

June 16th, 2011 / in policy, research horizons / by Erwin Gianchandani

A Policy Framework for the 21st Century Grid [image courtesy The White House]A new National Science and Technology Council report released Monday — titled A Policy Framework for 21st Century Grid — describes ways to speed development of a smart grid that reduces energy consumption, efficiently delivers power from renewable sources, and decreases the frequency and length of blackouts.

What’s most interesting — to us, anyway — is how the report calls attention to the need for fundamental research in several areas of computer science. Notably, “the four essential pillars that will enable the U.S. to transition to a smarter grid” all feature aspects of IT R&D prominently:

  1. Enable Cost-Effective Smart Grid Investments: Smart grid technology can drive improvements in system efficiency, resiliency, and reliability, and help enable a clean energy economy through cost-effective grid investments. Many of these technologies promise to pay for themselves in operational improvements, and energy savings. The Federal Government’s research, development and demonstration projects, technical assistance, information sharing on technologies and programs, and evaluations provide valuable guidance for utilities, consumers, and regulators about what approaches are the most cost-effective, thereby paving the way for the effective, ongoing upgrade of the grid.
  2. Unlock the Potential of Innovation in the Electricity Sector: A modernized electric grid promises to be a powerful platform for new products and services that improve grid operations and deliver comfort, convenience, and savings to energy customers.
  3. Empower Consumers and Enable Informed Decision Making: The success of smart grid technologies and applications depends on engaging and empowering both residential and small business consumers. New tools and programs promise to provide consumers personalized information and equip them to make informed energy choices, while ensuring their energy consumption data is accorded privacy protections.
  4. Secure the Grid: Protecting the electric system from cyber attacks and ensuring it can recover when attacked is vital to national security and prosperity. Developing and maintaining threat awareness and rigorous cybersecurity guidelines and standards are keys to a more secure grid.

Some other notable quotes from the report (emphasis added):

The success of smart grid technologies and applications depends crucially on engaging and empowering both residential and small business consumers in an effective manner. New tools and programs promise to provide consumers personalized information and enable them to make informed energy choices, while ensuring their energy consumption data is accorded privacy protections… Smart grid technologies can empower consumers to better manage their energy use, including opportunities to reduce peaks and share in any savings… These technologies may also give consumers more predictable bills, with the information and control they need to target specific electricity costs or bill totals.


Protecting the electric system from cyber attacks and ensuring it can recover when attacked is vital to national security and economic well-being. Developing and maintaining threat awareness and rigorous cybersecurity guidelines and standards are key to a more secure grid.


Better measurement and more sophisticated control systems can substantially reduce these losses, supply electricity to devices more effectively, and prolong equipment life.


Federal funding can drive innovative technologies to commercialization… DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability conducts research and development that accelerates discovery and innovation of smart grid technologies and creates “next generation” devices, software, tools and techniques to help modernize the electric gridPriorities include renewable and distributed systems integration, energy storage and power electronics, advanced system monitoring and visualization, and development of control systems… [The] President’s 2012 Budget calls for an Energy Innovation Hub focused on smart grid technology, and DOD is investing in smart grid research and development with a particular focus on micro-grid applications.


Many of the smart grid technologies being deployed today are focused on improving sensing and measurement capabilities, and providing grid operators with better system awareness and access to operational efficiency gains. These technologies are necessary — for example, better sensors could have helped avert the 2003 Northeast Blackout — but are only the beginning of the opportunities for improvement created by a smarter grid. Continuing research and development can thus improve existing technologies and unlock new opportunities in smart grid development.


Providing simple information — via websites, smart phones, or even kitchen-counter displays — about how much energy a house is using, along with simple tips to help reduce unnecessary energy use, can lead to 5 to 15% in energy savings.


The types of information and options that smart grid technologies can offer may not be familiar to all consumers, meaning that a simple and usable design may well be crucial to helping consumers realize the promised benefits.

The report also contains a case study describing how sensor networks have already demonstrated enhanced commercial building energy efficiency:

Building commissioning is a process of verifying the performance of all building systems in new construction. The functioning of these systems often decline over time as building conditions change and building system components wear out. Monitoring-based commissioning uses networked sensors to continuously monitor building performance. This monitoring can help identify and correct design and operational deficiencies and degradations in performance, as well as identify new energy-saving measures. The effect of monitoring-based commissioning is substantial, persistent reduction of wasted energy in commercial buildings. A test implementation of monitoring-based commissioning in 24 buildings identified and corrected more than 1,100 deficiencies, reducing electricity use by 9%, peak electrical demand by 4%, and hot water use by 25%. Cost savings from the efforts paid back the commissioning costs — including the installation of new sensors and information systems — in a median of 2.5 years.

To learn more, you can view a video archive of Monday’s release event below — and read the full report here.

(Contributed by Erwin Gianchandani, CCC Director)

“A Policy Framework for 21st Century Grid”