2017 Research Portfolio

Power Delivery and Utilization - Distribution and Utilization

Program 161 - Information and Communication Technology

Last Updated: 04-Jan-2018
Program Description

Utilities are increasingly deploying monitoring, communications, computing, and information technologies to enable grid modernization applications such as wide area monitoring and control, asset management, distribution automation, integration of distributed energy resources, and demand response. Companies face significant challenges when deploying these technologies, including:

  • Selecting the technologies that best meet current and future business needs, while minimizing the risk of early obsolescence and vendor lock-in;
  • Creating an overall architecture that integrates the many intelligent devices, communications networks, and enterprise systems to leverage resources and provide information to all users;
  • Mining and managing the tremendous amount of data that is generated, converting the data into actionable information, and effectively presenting the information to the people who need to take action;
  • Managing a growing network of intelligent devices that have different capabilities and use different protocols and data formats in a way that optimizes performance; and
  • Creating pervasive, resilient communications networks that can enable multiple applications

The Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) Program addresses these challenges by conducting research in:

  • Interoperability – The program accelerates the industry’s migration towards interoperability by making technical contributions to standards development efforts, providing training to utilities, organizing interoperability tests, developing transition strategies, and collaborating with utilities on the demonstrations of emerging standards.
  • Communications – The program provides leadership in communications standards development, provides tracking and analysis of communications technologies, and conducts laboratory and field tests to evaluate the performance of evolving and emerging technologies.
  • Enterprise Architecture / Systems Integration – The program creates artifacts that help to improve the state of the art in enterprise architecture and develops guides to help utilities with standards-based systems integration
  • Advanced Metering – The program leads an industry effort to develop open, interoperable advanced metering systems and develops prognostics tools that can help utilities determine the remaining life of the advanced metering systems.
Research Value

The ICT program provides information and tools that provide members with immediate value while conducting longer-term R&D to help guide the industry towards a highly connected and interoperable future.

IT departments can receive value from guides that provide best practices for enterprise architecture and systems integration. Utility operations can receive value from reports that track advances in standards and communications technologies; tools that determine the remaining useful life of advance metering systems; and from best practices for Geospatial Information System (GIS) and Phasor Measurement Unit (PMU) data management. This information can enable members to reduce capital and O&M costs, and minimize the risk of early obsolescence of equipment.

In the long term, members benefit from R&D and industry support to advance interoperability standards for advanced metering systems, distributed energy resources, demand response and enterprise system integration. This can reduce capital and integration costs and reduce the risk of vendor lock-in.


The approach for providing value in the ICT program involves multiple strategies:

  • Tracking and Analysis—Builds on ICT staff involvement in industry-related activities to provide insight and analysis to members. Key activities in 2017 include tracking and analysis of interoperability standards and communications technologies.
  • Industry Best Practices and Lessons Learned—Documents utility experiences as they implement early-generation technologies and applications and core grid-modernization technologies. Experiences are captured through utility immersions, interviews and case studies. Key activities in 2016 include: documenting best practices for GIS data management; synchrophasor communications and data management; Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) health monitoring and evolution; Information Technology (IT) / Operations Technology (OT) convergence; and leveraging cloud technologies.
  • Industry Leadership—Helps to advance the industry toward open and interoperable devices and systems. A key activity in 2016 was making technical contributions to advance open, interoperable advanced metering systems.
  • Laboratory Testing—Conducts work in EPRI laboratories that enables detailed assessment of emerging standards, equipment and software performance, and communications architectures.
  • Field Demonstrations—Performs full-scale deployments of emerging standards and communications technologies. This is done primarily through supplemental projects such as the Field Area Network demonstration, Open Automated Demand Response (OpenADR) demonstration and CEA-2045 (Consumer Electronics Association) demonstration.
  • Technology Transfer—Uses a variety of approaches to share research results, including technical reports, white papers, newsletters, webcasts and workshops.
  • Advancing Standards – Makes technical contributions to and participates in standards development organizations or industry groups that advanced interoperability and standardization. Key activities in 2017 include advancing the standards for asset condition monitoring, CIM for work and asset management, and communications and data standards for distributed energy resources and demand response.
  • Guidebook Development – Develops go-to reference books to help utilities plan for, design, deploy, and maintain new technologies or applications. A key activity in 2017 will be updating the Enterprise Architecture and Communications for Distribution Automation Guidebooks.

The ICT Program has delivered valuable information that has helped its members, the industry, and the public in numerous ways:

  • EPRI IntelliGrid Program 2015 Annual Review (3002004938) provides a summary of activities for each project in the program and offers case study examples of how information from the projects is being applied. The review also lists all of the deliverables over the last five years.
  • Electric Utility Guidebook on Integration of Internal and External Data Sources (3002005118) describes industry risks and technical challenges including the identification of data gaps, evaluation of data integration methodologies, and a discussion on the importance of geospatial information to enhance the assessment of weather events on operations assets.
  • Electric Utility Guidebook on Using IEC Standards for Asset Health Data Management: Harmonizing Common Information Model (CIM) and IEC 61850 Asset Health Data Models (3002005119) focuses on the applicability of existing standards and communications in using condition data for health monitoring of utility assets.
  • Electric Utility Guidebook on GIS Data Quality – Second Edition (3002006006) explores the locational differences between the physical placement of the asset compared to the modeled location, documenting method(s) to reconcile the system models, and understanding the cost and benefits of improving the system model data.
  • Communications Challenges and Opportunities Associated with the Integration of DER (3002005756) discusses the current status of DER communications protocols and related challenges and opportunities associated with integrating these technologies to serve as useful tools for distribution system operation and optimization.
  • Utility Cloud Integration Guidebook (3002005727) provides guidance for enterprise architects and senior managers for optimizing cloud architecture.
  • Information Technology (IT)/ Operations Technology (OT) Convergence Strategies (3002000085) explores the best practices based on interviews with utility CIOs.
  • Reference Implementation of Open AMI – Based on IEEE 802.15.4g and Wi-SUN (3002005587) enables utilities to independently evaluate Wi-SUN products for compatibility and interoperability.
  • Advanced Metering Systems Online Database (AMI Resource Center) Version 1.0 (2015) (3002005472) provides an online resource to track the industry status regarding smart meter/ AMI deployments.
Key Activities

In 2017, the ICT Program will:

  • Promote interoperable systems by leading an industry effort to develop open, interoperable advanced metering systems, contributing to the development of key standards such as the Common Information Model (CIM), assessing emerging standards such as Open ADR, conducting interoperability tests of products that implement key standards, and providing training and information to utilities on how to implement standards;
  • Provide tracking and analyses of emerging communications technologies; investigate synchrophasor communications infrastructure to support grid control; develop a guidebook for communications technologies that support distribution automation; and assess communications systems architectures for integrating distributed energy resources and demand response technologies into existing systems;
  • Develop strategies for transitioning from various isolated and independent legacy systems into harmonized, integrated and standards-based solutions that can effectively provide utilities useful, actionable information;
  • Develop artifacts that help to improve the state-of-the-art in enterprise architecture; and
  • Develop and populate a database which contains technical and use information about deployed AMI systems.
Estimated 2017 Program Funding
Program Manager
Donald Von Dollen, 650-855-2210, dvondoll@epri.com
Non-EPRI Members: Contact Program Manager - Donald Von Dollen; 650-855-2210; dvondoll@epri.com
Last Updated
  • PS161A: Emerging Technologies and Technology Transfer

    This project set provides tracking and analysis of the rapid advances in smart grid standards and communications technologies so that members can minimize risk when planning and procuring equipment. It investigates new, ground-breaking information and communication technology (ICT) issues and technologies that might impact utility investments. The ICT program provides members a group of established experts to capture and analyze this information and also provide insightful feedback to utilities. The project set promotes technology transfer for the entire ICT program through webcasts and newsletters and provides the overall industry coordination and high-level technology transfer activities related to the ICT technology needed to support smart grid applications.

  • PS161B: Information and Communication Technology for Transmission

    This project set provides technical guidance for information and communication technology (ICT) items of interest to transmission-focused organizations. Utilities continue to invest in sensor technologies that provide real-time information for managing the grid and grid assets. Among these are phasor measurement units (PMU) that deliver precise time stamped grid status and also video cameras for substation security monitoring. Both of these technologies require a robust communications infrastructure; however, utilities face challenges in putting a comprehensive communications infrastructure in place. For many utilities, their service areas cover expansive geographic areas. The scale and diversity of these areas creates challenges for putting a communications infrastructure in place that can be economically justified.

    Today there is an ever increasing spectrum of external data sources that may be helpful to utilities. The expansive growth in “Big Data” tools and analytics may provide new efficiencies in transmission operations, planning, and maintenance functions. This is especially true with geospatial data that may identify location specific impacts or trends.

    Utilities also own a wide array of legacy sensory devices that monitor asset condition with numerous protocols. This array requires a diverse set of mechanisms to get data out of the devices, because many of the legacy devices will continue to be relied on for years. As more devices are put online and provide more and more data back to operations, utilities will need to consider adopting standards such as IEC 61850, otherwise known as the Common Information Model (CIM); upgrading their analytic tools to turn the raw data into useful actionable information; and actively managing all the data that is being acquired.  Proper data management techniques archive aged data and ultimately delete this data when no longer relevant or useful.  

    The objective of the ICT for Transmission Systems project set is to the enhance the situational awareness and asset management of the transmission system by identifying requirements and industry best practices for a robust communications infrastructure; developing effective approaches for integrating, managing and analyzing internal and external data sources; and creating a standards-based approach for integrating sensors. The results of this work could ultimately help utilities reduce long-term operations and maintenance expenditures and improve system reliability and resiliency.

  • PS161C: Information and Communication Technology for Distribution

    The Information and Communication Technology for Distribution Systems project set focuses on the infrastructure, architecture, and standards needed to support the flexible and resilient distribution system of the future. This future distribution system will integrate smart devices and workers with back office systems, such as geospatial information systems, distribution management systems, outage management systems, work management systems, asset management systems, and customer information systems. This project set will enhance situational awareness by advancing integration among field devices, visualization systems, and back office systems. In doing so, the project set helps inform communications requirements and interoperability standards, and helps establish industry best practices. The project set will also address data quality, validation, visualization, and management for real-time applications. The work being done in this project set is closely coordinated with and designed to complement the work being done in the Distribution Systems Program (P180).

  • PS161D: Information and Communication Technology for Distributed Energy Resources

    Distributed energy resources (DER) play a key role in the realization of a modernized grid. EPRI has conducted field demonstration projects, such as the EPRI Smart Grid Demonstration Initiative (SGDI), that have helped to define state-of-the-art practices for building a smarter grid. As demand-responsive loads and distributed energy resources continue to be developed and connected to the grid in increasing numbers, this project set provides opportunity to extend collaborative research and information sharing in this focused area of research.

    This project set will include the integration of DER and DR via both utility owned systems as well as third party-owned cloud-hosted devices and systems of aggregated devices. Research will include the collective impacts of a high penetration of DER including renewable resources, distributed generation, and demand response, through full integration supporting interoperability in a utility’s service territory as tools to manage load relief on a distribution system that equate to capacity that does not have to be purchased, activated, or constructed.

  • PS161E: Enterprise Architecture and Systems Integration

    Fundamentally enterprise architecture is about mitigating risk. Enterprise architects mitigate risk and provide value to the organization by:

    • Reviewing systems for fit of purpose across the whole of the organization;
    • Working with business managers to harmonize the application portfolio;
    • Reducing redundancies that increase operations and maintenance costs;
    • Reviewing emerging technology for impacts to application roadmaps.

    The research of this project set aims to put the best tools and techniques into the hands of enterprise architecture practitioners, with an eye to the unique needs and operating environments of utilities. This research will help enterprise architects do their jobs better and help utilities establish a foundation for execution -- that is, the agility utilities will require in an environment marked by an increasing pace of change.

  • PS161F: Advanced Metering Systems

    Advanced metering systems are being deployed by utilities worldwide.  The performance of these systems, their reliability, and their trust by the consumer are crucial to the utility business. There are many challenges that must be addressed.  Solid-state metering and communication technologies of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) are new and rapidly evolving, and the methods for optimizing their utilization and value are still developing. Investments in AMI are among the largest being made by utilities, resulting in a need for high-quality asset management throughout the system lifecycle. Present systems are largely custom-designed or proprietary, rather than adhering to standards, resulting in vendor lock-in, heightened risk of obsolescence, and lack of interoperability.

    This project set comprises the whole of EPRI research in metering and advanced metering systems, bringing together communication research and meter-specific research that were previously conducted in separate programs. This project set aids members in optimizing existing system utilization and in discovering the full value of AMI-collected data. It accelerates and guides the development of emerging standards and architectures to enhance interoperability, innovation, and marketplace competition. Best practices are identified for the support of system operations and monitoring of systems. Solid-state meters are investigated in regard to accuracy, reliability, and tamper resistance.