The Smart Grid domain is comprised of and concerned with distributed intelligence including data decentralization, distributed generation and storage, and distribution system automation and optimization. Customer involvement and interaction is a consideration, as are micro-grids, and high-consumption electric devices including plug- in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) (Collier, 2010).
The Smart Grid is by definition about real-time data and active grid management via fast two-way digital communications through the application of technological solutions to the electricity delivery infrastructure. Connectivity exists between (and within) the electric utility, utility’s devices, consumer devices (In Home Devices, or IHDs), and third-party entities either as vendors, consumers, or regulatory bodies. Smart Grid includes an intelligent monitoring system that tracks the flow of electricity throughout the electrical network, and incorporates the use of superconductive transmission lines to manage power fluctuations, loss, and co-generation integration from solar and wind.
At its most efficient, the Smart Grid can control in-home devices that are non-critical during peak power usage-times to reduce demand, and return their function during non-peak hours. Proposals for optimization include smart electric grid, smart power grid, intelligent grid (or intelligrid), Future Grid, and the more modern intergrid and intragrid. In addition to leveling (or normalizing) electric demand, the ability to manage consumption peaks can assist in avoiding brown-outs and black-outs when demand exceeds supply, and allow for maintaining critical systems and devices under such conditions (Clark & Pavloski, 2010).
Figure 2 displays a high-level communication flow between different components in a Smart Grid.
Figure 2: Smart Grid (Source: www.consoglobe.com)
The Smart Grid initiative has spawned a significant movement toward the modernization and evolution of the electric utility infrastructure, and aims to bring it into today’s advanced communication age both in function and in architecture. That evolution brings with it a number of organizational, technical, socio-economic, and cyber security challenges. The breadth and depth of those challenges is not trivial, and a number of regulatory bodies have taken up the initiative to bring their own requirements into alignment with these new challenges. The initiative has also offered many opportunities for researchers, scientists, and enterprise architects to advance the state of security assurance; it also affords technologists the opportunity to explore new areas for exploiting means of data communication among distributed and remote networks and their devices.