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.

Digital Grid: Transforming the Electric Power Grid into an Innovation Engine for the United States

June 28th, 2017 / in Announcements, CCC, research horizons, Research News / by Helen Wright

In a world where digital Internet technology (Amazon, Ebay, Uber, Airbnb) is transforming traditional industries, the traditional electric energy market is lagging significantly. A move towards a true digital grid is needed.

Recently, the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) in collaboration with the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Heads Association (ECEDHA) released white papers describing a collective research agenda for intelligent infrastructure. We will be blogging about each paper over the next few weeks.

Today, we highlight the Digital Grid: Transforming the Electric Power Grid into an Innovation Engine for the United States white paper.

A new and substantial investment is needed to develop the new Digital Grid. Radical reductions in the cost of sensors, communication, information processing, cyber-security, and new regulatory policies in electricity markets are needed. Federal leadership is essential to break the logjam and encourage new approaches.

There are many challenges to transform the power grid into a Digital Grid. The primary ones and their potential solutions are listed as follows:

  • Electricity Market and Regulatory Policy: Low marginal costs coupled with high initial capital costs are characteristic of traditional power generation. Today the ratio between running cost and capital cost is falling rapidly with the introduction of renewable generation, along with the flexibility of resources such as storage and demand response.
    • Potential Solution: Research is needed to ensure that consumer engagement will enhance rather than disrupt reliability of the grid. Further, automation of demand response is required to ensure grid reliability and also to ensure that each participant receives the benefits that are promised.
  • Grid Stability and Resiliency under High DER Penetration: The envisioned Digital Grid must be realized with no comprise to grid reliability and resilience. Since the Digital Grid is fundamentally supporting high DER penetration with very dynamic bidirectional power flows affected by the realtime market participation, the grand challenges in control is to achieve voltage and frequency stability, as well as intelligent protection.
    • Potential Solution: The Digital Grid will need the development and installation of a new generation of Smart Transformers as an universal cyber-physical system interface, that can provide the needed system inertia and provide autonomous voltage, frequency, and protection.
  • Cyber-Physical Security: Cyber vulnerabilities of the power grid exist in numerous facilities, including Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems that power grids rely upon for monitoring and control of the physical grid. The increasing penetration of wind turbines, solar arrays, and energy storage devices creates potential new targets for cyber intrusions.
    • Potential Solution: Ensuring resilience of the power grid to cyber threats will require a sustained and coordinated research effort towards understanding the vulnerabilities of cyberattacks on the grid, providing defense mechanisms that can ameliorate the impact of attacks and ensure continued operation and efficient recovery from attacks when and where they occur.

Please read the paper for other challenges, potential solutions, and actions needed for Transforming the Electric Power Grid into an Innovation Engine for the United States.

Stay tuned to learn more about the other intelligent infrastructure papers!

Digital Grid: Transforming the Electric Power Grid into an Innovation Engine for the United States

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