Cisco Blogs

Smart Loads lead to Smart Grids

- June 24, 2009 - 4 Comments

imageWhy do we have a power ‘Grid’ at all?Simple…to be more productive. Energy fuels our industry, our industries fuel our economies. After we saw the first massive spikes in industrial productivity from this new thing called electricity, we were hooked and the ‘Grid’ began. Our post-wattage days have been blissful until now. Now we are seeing limits where none were before. So, what to do.We apply the same ingenuity and management to Watts as we do to Packets. That is Cisco’s technical approach to what is otherwise a social construct; Green. Reduce Watts, and in turn reduce carbon through Smart Loads. With that, the utilities that provide us with our Watts will be able to use the same technologies used to control the “business” side of energy. There will be a lag but when people talk Smart Grid today it can mean many things. Basic Ethernet connectivity may be one.If you want to geek out on how things are coming along here at Cisco on energy tech, have a listen to a recent interview I was privileged to provide. Its a discussion with John Gilroy of Federal News Radio 1500AM in Washington, DC.John runs a great show and we really engaged on some meaty bits, you can play as a URL or download as a podcast…

Leave a comment

We'd love to hear from you! To earn points and badges for participating in the conversation, join Cisco Social Rewards. Your comment(s) will appear instantly on the live site. Spam, promotional and derogatory comments will be removed.

In an effort to keep conversations fresh, Cisco Blogs closes comments after 60 days. Please visit the Cisco Blogs hub page for the latest content.


  1. I've read some of the blog posts regarding Richards-Zeta and the future integration with smart grid technology and I have some comments/questions. With the abundance of energy management software currently employed - I do think that Cisco may have some barriers to entry with certain customers due to an (ironically) very traditionally new-technology-wary customer base.Moving to the control aspect of Cisco BMS interfacing as a smart grid infrastructure I have some questions...As referenced above, most people familiar with the electrical industry take issue that private specifying engineers, even today - sometimes have issues with analog vs digital metering and control devices due to reliability even in low voltage distribution systems. (I am not one those people BTW) With respect to control, I am not aware of a critical load application for low voltage distribution systems with load shedding properties that doesn't use hard wired and finally manual operation as a fail-safe... do you expect he network"" is going to be somewhat of a tough sell? I am just trying to envision where the redundancy comes in? N+1 design? How is power priority factored into the mix? Meaning, I can only assume a smart grid would provide for load shedding in critical situations to keep hospitals, data centers, etc alive... what kind of redundancy is planned to avoid catastrophe? Is power controlled at the utility distribution level causing undervoltage sensing conditions at private facilities - or are the Main disconnects in private service entrance facilities meant to trip on command from the utility?Finally, I'm curious how relaying and metering is to be enforced at the distribution level? Is it the utility that will add CT's and relays with communications? Will they have to differentiate what type of entity they provide service to? Who will pay for this? Is there a benefit to even having a private energy management system at that point except to identify critical loads within a private system?I'm not challenging anyone, I'm just curious the actual plan. Although I realize I these questions may be premature.. Implementation of this would certainly open up a large can of worms security wise... At some point I can imagine a great deal of resistance - but in effect it is not only a good solution, it's the only solution that makes sense, it's just a giant hill to climb in an industry built on relationships that notoriously lives a couple decades in the past.This is great stuff though, and I am interested in hearing more thoughts. There are definitely some real opportunities to break down the status quo with some very precise decisions. I am hoping all of this integration happens as quickly as possible from my own social responsibility perspective.Cheers!"

  2. Hi Michael,GREAT QUESTIONS and all the right ones. Premature...yes but very worth discussing. Lets leave aside the discussion on what I would call switchable & route-able"" power distribution at the Grid level but lets assume that some of the points I will cover will lead us in that direction.The basic supposition I make for this post is that the Grid can only be as smart as the load. Meaning that a grid operator (aka utilities) can only make intelligent decisions based on the data available. With that assumed, you're right that ""the network"" in Cisco speak meaning an IP-based network is far and away the best ""platform"" to provide basic connectivity, protocol conversion, data set normalization and integration of management systems...just to name a few. With that being said, here are the basic steps as I see them today and please note I do not speak for all of Cisco on this as there are bound to be multiple interpretations of what a ""Smart Grid"" is:1) Basic connectivity - the Grid today is primarily SCADA based and very few operators have Ethernet deployed.2) Common instrumentation - we've done this on the load side of the house with EnergyWise in that we now have the loads OS report it's energy use. Our work here is not done yet as there is some variance in how different infrastructure reports. However that work is well underway.3) Protocol Conversion - SCADA and legacy networks aren't going anywhere anytime soon and a hybrid solution needs to be delivered to ease a transition.4) Database and Management Apps - historian capabilities and user interfaces are still being worked on and need to come a long way given the criticality of the service5) Automation - as with any new approach, the manual will be automated. I believe a certain degree of policy based automation will need to be ""baked"" into any management apps for utilities to adopt any solutions broadly.These are simplified for sake of the blog but generally I would say we (the world) are in the infant stages of even defining what a Smart Grid is and we will need to reconcile a lot more before a solution in this space can be operationalized.However, when we do the benefits will be tremendous. Based on my research I believe we can anticipate a 20-30% total improvement to the blended efficiency of our Grid/Load models today. If this can happen in tandem with big investments in renewable energy, electric cars and efficient point products then we have a fighting chance to curb climate change. Even if we can't curb it we've still learned valuable lessons in how to be more efficient and more sustainable in how we operate.You may be interested in some other posts where I discuss the implications of tying energy use to the application which is equally interesting in my opinion as it could dramatically change consumer behavior - just imagine a Carbon based widget in your browser adding cars to your screen that directly correlate to your web usage...might make us reconsider watching ""fuzzy bunny"" for the 15th time on youtube!Thanks for the comments Michael!"

  3. thank you very much