predict power problems before they get out of hand and heal itself when damage is unavoidable.
Another aspect of an intelligent system is the ability to fully utilize existing assets through greater system control and flexibility, along with new concepts of designing for high reliability. Opportunities for improving the overall efficiency of the power system equipment use and operation, while still maintaining reliability, are possible in areas such as a dense urban environment, where existing assets are located in close proximity but are often not fully employed.
For electricity customers, a smart power system means not only enhanced power reliability and security but also new services that can add value by giving customers options for control of use, and thus the cost of electricity. For example, customers may be able to monitor their building or industrial-process energy use in real time, choose from a menu of service packages to best fit their energy needs and use patterns, and even sell excess electricity from distributed generation back to their power provider. The promise of a smart power delivery system clearly carries advantages for utilities and consumers.
The change to an intelligent digital system will come from the gradual confluence of innovative projects undertaken by individual companies, rather than through a sudden transformation. Although the new smart devices and technologies developed for these projects will be of value individually, the greater benefit to the power network will be realized only when they all work together. Ensuring that the individual sensing, communications, and computing equipment installed over the coming years can be integrated with other systems and, eventually, come together to form a single system requires an overall power network architecture—that is, common methods and tools for planning and designing the smart systems, and a complete suite of standards. For this purpose, current information technology has some shortcomings. Architecture and standards for power systems have to include consideration of how the legacy systems can be preserved and integrated.
At present, more than 150 different communications protocols are used in the U.S. electric utility industry. Interoperability in today’s environment is thus impossible. The industry and the federal government have begun to recognize this deficiency and have initiated several efforts to formulate an architecture that could underpin a smart power system.
These various approaches all rely, in one way or another, on one or more innovative technologies. Many of these technologies have not been fully researched, developed, or demonstrated.
Currently available technology can and should be used more extensively to protect the power delivery system against terrorists, disgruntled employees, or severe natural disasters. There are, however, serious limits (both economic and technical) to how much protection current technology can provide. Advanced technology can raise these limits significantly. The committee’s assessment of the status of research and development for the electric power delivery system led it to draw the following general findings.
Finding 9.1 Even in the absence of terrorist attacks, current and projected future inadequacies in the electric power delivery system are likely to result in deteriorating reliability, excessive instances of degraded power quality, and the inability to provide enhanced services to consumers.5 Inadequate investments in this infrastructure and growing demand for electric power have led to an increasingly stressed system.
Finding 9.2 Underinvestment in R&D for the electric power delivery system has been even more pronounced than underinvestment in the infrastructure. New technologies and techniques are not being developed that could overcome stresses and reduce the cost of delivering electric power to meet the new and growing needs to which the system must respond.
Finding 9.3 There is considerable overlap between the R&D needed to reduce vulnerability to terrorist attack and the R&D that can address the challenges already faced by the power delivery system. An R&D strategy for the power delivery system focused exclusively on terrorism is likely to be less cost-effective and less successful than an integrated strategy to address all the needs and challenges confronting the system, including those posed by terrorism.
Finding 9.4 EPRI, DOE, and a number of utilities and corporations have all engaged in R&D road mapping exercises for the electric power delivery system. The most critical needs are already well identified, and a much larger and more comprehensive R&D program could be created rapidly. The elements of this program are listed in Table 9.1. A more extensive list is shown in Appendix H. DOE would have primary responsibility for most of this program.
DHS should cooperate with DOE to support the following parts of an enhanced R&D program for electric power transmission and distribution to harden the system against terrorism, mitigate the impacts of terrorist acts, and enhance recovery.
Recommendation 9.1 Complete the development and demonstration of high-voltage recovery transformers, and