Working toward a Smarter, Greener Grid

Modernizing electric power grids is a top priority across the country. Smart grids will help:

  • Provide consumers with the information, price structures, technologies, incentives, and tools that can empower them to use electricity more efficiently and reduce their individual energy costs
  • Improve the operational efficiency of the grid, particularly during peak times when the grid is most stressed and electricity is most expensive
  • Reduce transmission and distribution system operation, maintenance, and construction costs by reducing electricity demands at times of system peaks
  • Reduce regional wholesale and retail electricity costs by reducing electricity demand at times of system peaks

State efforts to modernize the grid also open up new approaches to demand resources (including energy efficiency, demand response, and distributed generation) and for coordinating planning, operations, and pricing between the wholesale and retail sectors. But as customer power consumption becomes more price-responsive and as more customers produce their own power (for example, with solar photovoltaic systems), demand becomes less predictable, supply less controllable, and operations more complex. This poses operational challenges for the ISO.

Investing in a highly-skilled staff allows ISO New England to actively pursue innovations on behalf of the region to help create a more efficient, responsive, reliable power system that can handle smart grid technology, as well as the integration of more demand resources and renewable generation.
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ISO Efforts

ISO innovation is critical for preparing the power system to handle the complexities of expanded smart grid technology, demand resources, and renewable generation. Here are some examples of recent or ongoing ISO efforts:

Integration of Renewables and Demand Response

  • The ISO is participating on the technical review committee for the Eastern Renewable Generation Integration Study (ERGIS). This study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) aims to determine the operational impact of significant wind and solar penetration on the Eastern Interconnection and to evaluate options for managing its variable effects on the power system.
  • ERGIS wind data is already being used in the ISO’s Qualified Capacity Estimator—a new tool for the review and determination of wind and solar project capacity qualifying for Forward Capacity Market Auctions. The tool has generated cost savings for sponsors of those projects and both cost and time savings for the ISO, which can now perform its analysis in weeks versus months.
  • The ISO is contributing to Watt-Sun, an ongoing project sponsored by the Department of Energy in partnership with the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center. The results of this project to apply state-of-the-art machine learning technologies to improve solar forecasting will help support the reliable and efficient integration of increasing amounts of PV in the region.
  • Teaming up with scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), the ISO helped study how high-performance computing can be used to model and simulate a new robust unit commitment (UC) solution for dispatching generators, especially as more variable generation from renewable energy units comes on line. The team successfully reduced needed calculation times and produced a sophisticated statistical wind generation model for use with future studies on the random behavior of wind.
  • In partnership with other ISOs/RTOs, ISO New England is providing technical and other support for the development of demand-response-related standards by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the North American Energy Standards Board (NAESB).
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Smart Grid Development

  • Through its membership in the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP), the ISO is participating in the development of national smart grid interoperability standards, led by NIST, to establish protocols that provide common interfaces for smart grid equipment.
  • ISO staff are also active in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a professional society that, among its many activities, helps develop standards for the interconnection and operation of smart grid technologies.
  • The installation of 40 phasor measurement units (PMUs or synchrophasors) and associated computer systems for collecting and analyzing power system data was completed in 2013. A multi-year effort to bring data from the PMUs into operations will be completed in 2015. The PMUs sample power conditions about 30 times per second. (Read more.)
  • The region is a leader in the smart grid application of high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) facilities and flexible alternating-current transmission systems (FACTS), which improve the controllability and transfer capability of transmission infrastructure—key factors in the connections of more renewable energy resources.

Operational Efficiencies

  • To satisfy an increasing number of required transmission plan studies, the ISO is exploring an innovative use of cloud computing to enhance its ability to use more detailed and sophisticated system models and scenarios, and to do so faster and at a cost savings. The initiative—the first of its kind for large-scale power system simulation studies in the industry—is already yielding successful early results.
  • Various projects to create new systems and tools for greater operational and planning efficiencies and performance are also underway. These include projects related to voltage stability, control room visualization, and power system modeling.

Helpful Resources

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