After a century of relative stability, the current decade is seeing a dramatic pace of change in the generation, distribution, and consumption of electricity. Driven by technology and ambitious policy objectives, this rapid evolution has begun to stretch the electricity system in fundamental ways. In order to support the new capabilities (e.g. distributed generation, demand participation, etc.) being introduced, the electricity system needs a ubiquitous layer of information for situational awareness, coordination, and control. Developments in information technology have enabled the weaving of a “packet grid” that supports information flows independently of the “electron grid”—this combination is generally referred to as the smart grid.
As of today, most utilities still rely on legacy communication networks that were purpose-built for the support of individual applications. An integrated network architecture will be required to meet the evolving needs of the electricity system while maintaining reliability, security, and performance. In order to make effective decisions, power sector leaders will need a basic understanding of smart grid network technologies. This paper outlines some of the fundamentals of communication networks for the smart grid. The content comes from extensive ad hoc reading of Google queries, Wikipedia, and a book written by Budka, Deshpande, and Thottan from Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs. For a more in-depth understanding, reading this book is strongly recommended. [Read more…]