| | FEBRUARY 201819are growing. These devices will need to be monitored and managed ­ but what is the best communications network architecture to answer these concerns? One likely answer is that we will need to organize individual DERs into groups that can be managed in aggregate. Grid operators have identified many levels at which such aggregation is needed, including buildings, microgrids, campuses and neighborhoods, and feeders and substations. Hierarchical methods for integration of DER allow this functionality via the IEC 61968-5 standard for distributed energy optimization, but this effort is still in draft and may be a year from being published. Cyber security concerns also are growing. Just a few years ago, DER deployments were low and loss of control or even malicious control had limited impacts. But the trajectory of abundant, renewable energy that society desires requires high numbers of DER that could have major impacts if grid management is disrupted. There also is increasing awareness that cyber secure communication networks are required to manage DER and ensure grid reliability, stability, and safety. Many Moving PartsCommunication interoperability among vendors, appropriate placement of intelligence for distributed grid management, useful communications with central controls, and secure infrastructure to ensure grid stability, reliability, and safety, are only a handful of many challenges outlined in this article. Utility grid devices and DERs have different communication needs due to how they prioritize data traffic and how sensitive they are to latency or delays. The rising interest in transactive energy and potential applications of Blockchain technology create new unknowns bedeviling utility communications professionals as they attempt to discern the future demands on their networks. Just like a highway engineer bases a new road design on traffic volumes, types of vehicle traffic, and traffic patterns, network designers need guidance that doesn't yet exist to build their data transport infrastructures. This gap in knowledge is possibly the most dangerous gap of all.Closing the Gaps through ArchitectureEPRI launched a major research effort, Information & Communication Technology and Security Architecture for DER, to address the challenges confronting utilities. This research is organized into five tracks:· Core Architecture­ Guidelines, roadmap development, RFP language, and technology transfer· Lab Evaluation (Edge-of-Grid) ­ Protocols, applications, and distributed intelligence· Lab Evaluation (Distributed Energy Resource Management Systems, Markets) ­ Market operations, control strategies, IoT platforms· Lab Evaluation (Cyber Security) ­ Security for DER devices and systems· Demonstrations ­ taking lab work into the field for evaluation at participating utilitiesEPRI will continue contributions to DER communications standards development efforts, with an emphasis on scalability, manageability, and security of protocols. EPRI has published "Quick Insight" reports that provide some initial guidance to utilities about BlockchainThere has been substantial progress in developing DER data integration capabilities, but more R&D is needed to build a collaborative and consensus-based methodology, a methodology that works even before a utility has a clear plan of action and the network architecture it needs to manage DER that conforms to the overall mission of ensuring reliability, stability, and safety. ECMark McGranaghanThere has been substantial progress in developing DER data integration capabilities, but more R&D is needed to build a collaborative and consensus-based methodology
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