What can you do with 150 smart power systems people gathered in a room? If there aren't any light bulbs that need to be changed, they just might assemble a few innovative metrics to guage progress on the smart grid. I attended the Department of Energy's Smart Grid Implementation Workshop, held yesterday and today at L'Enfant Plaza. Stakeholders from across the electricity system were present – regulators, system operators, utilities, academics, labs, and manufacturers. NEMA members in attendance included ABB, Areva, Elster, Emerson, GE, Itron, Nexans, S&C, and Siemens. The objective for the participants in breakout sessions was to come up with quantitative measures that would demonstrate the degree to which our electric grid is gaining "intelligence." For example, in my power quality group we suggested measuring the number and percentage of power quality incidents that can be identified and anticipated. As measurment and control devices become more pervasive, this metric should increase and losses due to such incidents should decrease.
I have too many compliments to list regarding the usefulness of this workshop, so I'll limit it to just one. This is the first time I've experienced an in-depth discussion on smart grid's potential that still remained practical and well-grounded (apologies for the pun). By placing the visionaries next to the old-line engineers, the discussions produced tangible metrics that make sense – usable today and flexible for tomorrow. Bravo to the DoE and the facilitators for a fine show.