Energy Optimization - Creating another Tower of Babel?

  • April 25, 2011
  • Feature
April 2011
By Bill Lydon, Editor
Energy has become a hot topic with vendors and standards organizations, many of which are offering and creating solutions for energy users. Most governments around the world view energy as a key economic and national security issue and are promoting conservation and SmartGrid concepts to save energy.
In the last two years, I have attended many presentations by organizations, standards groups, and vendors about energy and the SmartGrid. They majority of these presentations are made up of a long list of statistics about energy history (consumption trends, costs, dwindling resources, etc.) and future impacts if we continue to do nothing. The presentations then discuss long established fundamentals of energy conservation and optimization at a macro level. I am surprised how these energy fundamentals are presented as a surprising revelation, because energy conservation has been an issue for years, if not decades. Because of this fact, I do not have confidence that the presenting organizations and companies are experts yet.
Energy conservation and optimization is simple but not easy. Like playing golf, make par for 18 holes and you have a good game – easier said than done! The simple part is defining the basic steps: understand where energy is being consumed, eliminate waste, optimize utilization, and replace poorly performing equipment.  Each step takes more knowledge and investment to accomplish. It is not a linear process.
Similar to the standardization of control system networks that ultimately created a wide range of different standards, these energy related activities have the potential to spawn a number of transaction and data definitions embedded in protocols that are all somewhat different. So there we go again!
Partitioning of functions is tricky and I think care needs to be taken when winding the concepts of energy optimization too tightly with automaton protocols. This may create some strange outcomes and “boat anchors” for users that adopt them.
Data Normalization
Any control engineer that has experience interfacing controllers, RTUs, and instruments in a system where each of device represents floating point numbers differently can appreciate the need for standardized data. Fortunately, most devices now conform to the IEEE Standard for Floating-Point Arithmetic (IEEE 754). We need this kind of standardization for energy data from end device to utilities.
The common problem for all the groups is defining common data models for energy and energy control information. Without collaboration, each group will develop a unique model that will be need to be translated at different levels of system architecture - from energy consuming devices to utilities via the SmartGrid.
What is the most efficient open transport method for energy automation?
Based on my experience designing optimization and power demand systems, I know that the majority of energy optimization is supervisory control with response requirements in milliseconds or much longer. The exception is highly sophisticated process optimization that is hard core real-time control - precisely what our present industrial networks are designed to support.
Why can’t web services co-exist with Industrial Ethernet protocols at controllers for the purpose of energy automation and other functions?
The building automation industry has been miles ahead of industrial automation in the monitoring, optimization and load control of energy. I have personally done this for years-in a previous job-before it was an issue in industrial automation. Although still in its application infancy, the building automation industry and energy providers are using web services to manage optimize, bid, and reverse auction bid for energy today.  The building automation industry has been refining protocols and implementing WEB services to improve energy optimization. I was involved in major building automation industry discussions and debates about the roles of protocols and web services that started in 2003. In my opinion, building automation experts, with their longer history of understanding energy and energy optimization issues, have consciously sorted out functions for protocol and web services. Is it perfect?  No, but it is more refined than what is happening in industrial automation.
Web services leverage the IP infrastructure that is becoming the information highway for voice, video, and data. Web services enable network transactions to be more intelligent and are based on broadly accepted standards. A big argument against its use has been that network bandwidth is too low but this issue is rapidly going away in plants. As IPv6 is deployed, IP based communications for everything makes even more sense. It is highly likely that the majority of companies will work towards a single IP network infrastructure. Having Multiple IP network technologies within a plant adds capital expense to the network, increases maintenance costs, lowers end-to-end performance (more gateways, routers, etc.) and negatively impacts security. This is an architectural change that appears to be happening throughout an enterprise.
OPC UA is a good candidate to provide the web services based standard for energy for industrial applications.
Existing Installations
Existing installations need to look at their energy situations and take actions now. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to start an energy savings program now regardless of installed network or systems.
The Industrial Technologies Program (ITP) offers a collection of free software tools to help you identify and analyze energy system savings opportunities in your plant or industrial facility. More information
DOE's Industrial Technologies Program (ITP) Save Energy Now energy assessments focus on significantly increasing the implementation of identified savings opportunities - "MMBtus/year in the Ground" - while at the same time ensuring that there is significant cost/benefit for the Federal funds used for the assessments. The new assessments will provide greater value to industrial plants and better leverage the investment. More information
DSIRE is a comprehensive source of information on state, local, utility and federal incentives and policies that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency. Established in 1995 and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, DSIRE is an ongoing project of the N.C. Solar Center and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council.  More information.  
Standards Everywhere
The good news is there are a lot of organizations focusing on automation for saving energy. The other news is there are many groups with initiatives so I have included introductions and links to many if you would like to learn more.
Your thoughts?
I am certainly interested in your thoughts and insights on this topic.  Use the "Feedback" link at the bottom of this article to contact me.
Energy Automation & Standards Initiatives
These are groups that are working on standards related to energy monitoring, optimization and SmartGrid:
IEC Standards
Over 100 IEC Standards have been identified as relevant to the Smart Grid. Below is a list of the core standards. The complete list of IEC Standards (by importance and relevant application) is available for download. 
ODVA has launched Optimization of Energy Usage (OEU™), described as a holistic approach to improve and optimize the use of energy in industrial plants and processes. ODVA has formed the Energy Applications Special Interest Group (SIG) to develop specification enhancements for energy applications utilizing the Common Industrial Protocol. The first work described by SIG members at the annual meeting is to define CIP objects for energy information.  More information
PI (PROFIBUS & PROFINET International) introduced the PROFIenergy profile that enables power consumption of automation equipment to be managed over a PROFINET network.  The PROFIenergy profile provides a standardized interface for energy logic that is implemented by engineers based on the best energy management strategy for the application. Basic energy states supported include: brief pauses, long pauses, and unscheduled pauses.  More information
OASIS Energy Interoperability Project
The OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) parent organization was founded in 1993 and is a not-for-profit consortium for development, convergence and adoption of open standards for global information. The Energy Interoperability Project is a technical committee developing data models and communication models to enable collaborative and transactive use of energy. Web services definitions, service definitions consistent with the OASIS SOA Reference Model, and XML vocabularies related to energy and demand control are being developed.  More information.  
The purpose of oBIX (Open Building Information Exchange) is to enable the mechanical and electrical control systems in buildings to communicate with enterprise applications. Since 2004, oBIX has been developing a publicly available web services interface specification that can be used to obtain data and to provide data exchange between facility systems and enterprise applications. oBIX is currently a Technical Committee of OASIS.  More information.
The IETF ( Energy Management Framework describes functionality for reporting of energy information in an Internet Protocol network. Draft data models can be viewed at:
BACnet Web Services
The BACnet XML WORKING GROUP is focused on Web Services for building automation and control systems. BACnet is building on objects created over a number of years for control of buildings and energy. Beyond monitoring, in 2004 BACnet created a Load Control object type.
ASHRAE and NEMA are proposing Standard 201, Facility Smart Grid Information Model. The purpose of this standard is to define an abstract, object-oriented information model to enable appliances and control systems in homes, buildings, and industrial facilities to manage electrical loads and generation sources in response to communication with a “smart” electrical grid and to communicate information about those electrical loads to utility and other electrical service providers. The intent is to provide a common basis for electrical energy consumers to describe, manage, and communicate electrical energy consumption information and forecasts. (; )
NIST Smart Grid Collaboration Site
NIST mainly deals with the interaction between power suppliers and user sites and has set up a website for collaboration. More Information.

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