Sunday, November 29, 2009

Is International Collaboration in the Cards for the Smart Grid?

There are currently Smart Grid conferences, planning committees and pilot deployments happening on every continent except maybe Antarctica. Yet most everything I've read to date concerns work being done in the US. I can tell you, however, that many of the readers of the Smart Grid Security Blog are from Europe and Asia. I can also relate that after moderating a Smart Grid panel at a recent clean tech conference in Boston, I was approached by a gentleman who wanted to ensure I knew about a big RFP coming out soon to build a Smart Grid for the city-state of Singapore. (Here's a link to a conference that just took place there.)

So, with that said, here's a short post on the international angle: le Smart Grid. Warning: if you favor answers, this post is light on them and chock-a-block full of questions. Here's a few starters to get us started:
  • Will the fully deployed Smart Grid have borders?
  • In North America, will the Smart Grid eventually transcend the current regional topology of Regional Transmission Operators (RTO's) and Independent Systems Operators (ISO's)?
  • While the electrons that constitute my emails transit the continent (heck, most of the globe) with ease, the same cannot be said for the electrons currently bringing my monitor to life. Will the Smart Grid change this?
  • Is there anything the US can learn from early international efforts in Europe, where Germany was a first mover?
According to this recent article from Smart Grid News, seems like current thinking, in the US anyway, may not be very collaborative ... at least not as far as security is concerned. Here's a recent statement from a Canadian Electricity Association (CEA) VP on how current Smart Grid security legislation and standards make no mention of working as a team with our partners in the Great White North:
[The US has] got to realize that the North American grid is international, it's interconnected, it's integrated. Consultations, cooperation between governmental authorities on both sides of the border is going to be imperative, otherwise you won't be able to ensure system reliability and you'll probably undermine system reliability.
I realize my understanding of these issues is likely simplistic. Yet the ability to quickly "island off" healthy portions of the grid from unhealthy ones is key functionality every region and every nation is shooting for. But islanding should be an emergency response, not the square one status quo inside the US or among close allies.

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