Smart grids: The great IT/OT convergence

Investments in distribution tech are leveraging OT/IT integration, communications, and advanced applications to improve grid reliability and efficiency

Most smart grid projects to date in North America have focused on the distribution level of the grid and with good reason. There are far more assets on distribution grids and most outages occur at a local level, while major blackouts remain relatively rare. For utilities, distribution grid management is now a key smart grid investment area that can improve system reliability and efficiency. One area of particular interest lies in combining operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) to improve the operation of the distribution grid.

At the convergence point of OT/IT is the distribution management system (DMS). The DMS is what local grid operators use to manage the day-to-day operations of their networks. Advanced applications include:

̶  Outage management to identify faults on the system and manage work crews’ response
̶  Automated switching to re-connect customers during storms
̶  Automated controls to optimize the grid in real time to improve reliability, reduce losses, and improve grid efficiency.

Investments in distribution technologies are leveraging OT/IT integration, communications, and advanced applications to improve grid reliability and efficiency. But, there are two other areas where utilities are making smart grid investments – utility analytics and distributed energy resources (DERs). The first harnesses the explosion of meter and grid data that utilities now have from smart metering, communications, and sensor investments. The second includes both renewables like rooftop solar and conventional backup generators. Market analysts forecast utility analytics as the fastest growing smart grid technology area and many utilities have DER pilot programs in place.

At Ventyx World 2014, we will be discussing the importance of IT/OT integration in creating a truly smart grid as well as many other relevant topics. Look forward to meeting you there to follow up this discussion.

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About the author

Gary Rackliffe

Hello, I lead Smart Grid Development for ABB North America. I have more than 25 years of industry experience in both transmission and distribution (T&D) and have worked with ABB for 19 years across a variety of positions. I hold a bachelor’s and master’s degree in electric power engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an MBA degree from Carnegie Mellon University.
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