Can you talk the smart grid talk? Use this guide to common
smart grid terms and acronyms to make sure you're speaking the lingo of the
smart grid when meeting with prospective partners and customers.
This is a glossary of terms commonly used in the smart grid
environment. Alternative definitions and synonyms are included where
appropriate – as are commonly used acronyms.
Advanced battery systems - New generations of batteries
that feature improved efficiency and power, and fast charging.
Advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) - All
components of the infrastructure relating to electric metering and
communications. Includes meters capable of two-way communication.
Appliances - In the smart grid context, appliances go
well beyond the kitchen and laundry room and generally refer to residential
items, tools, and systems powered by electricity, including heating and
cooling, lighting, refrigerators, washers/dryers, computer systems and
Asset management - Procedures and policies intended
to control costs, reduce risk, enhance performance, improve investment and
project scheduling decisions, and deal with older equipment.
Automated meter reading (AMR) - Sensor-equipped meters
capable of retrieving and transmitting power consumption and other information.
Battery electric vehicle (BEV) - A vehicle that runs
exclusively on power stored in on-board batteries.
Biomass - A renewable fuel source for power generation. Includes wood and
wood waste, municipal solid waste, crops and biogas.
Broadband over power line (BPL) - Broadband Internet
access available over standard power lines.
Building automation system (BAS) - A
system capable of computerized monitoring and control of a building’s lighting
and mechanical systems, and monitoring for performance and potential failure.
Installations typically focus on improved energy efficiency, reliability and
Business case - A decision-making process to determine how
a specific decision will affect profitability, and how cash flow, costs and
revenue will change.
Capacity - The measurement of a quantity of energy a
battery provides in one discharge.
Charge coupler - The connector and vehicle
receptacle for hybrid and all-electric vehicle charging.
Cogeneration - The reuse of thermal energy by connecting
thermal electric generation with a thermal process, such as an industrial
Command and control - Control centers able to monitor
and manage the smart grid, providing remote diagnosis, and remote repair in
Communications - Generally refers to an
integrated, two-way communications and networking platform essential to the
operation of a smart grid. Also, communications is an intensely competitive
market among wireless, cellular and networking vendors.
Compressed air energy storage - Air that has been
compressed, frequently stored in mines or salt caverns, for use on demand.
Congestion - A condition in which there is not enough
transmission capacity to handle all of the simultaneous demands on a system
Critical infrastructure protection (CIP) -
Administered by the North American Electric, CIP standards are used to safeguard
the North American bulk power system from attack and ensure utility compliance.
Customer information system (CIS) - A
software application for handling customer calls, billing and other related
Cycle life - The lifespan of a rechargeable battery used
in an EV before it starts to lose its ability to hold a charge. Batteries that
are no longer useful in EVs still have capacity, and an after market is being
developed to use them in other applications such as energy storage. (See
Demand response - A smart grid practice that
allows consumers to reduce or change their electrical use patterns during peak
demand, usually in exchange for a financial incentive. The concept of reducing
demand rather than increasing supply.
Demand side management (DSM) - Programs used to
encourage customers to change the levels and patterns of their electricity
Department of Energy (DOE) - The federal agency charged with
ensuring the continuation of national, economic and energy security of the
United States. Smart grid stimulus and demonstration project grants are
administered by DOEl
Distributed generation - Relatively small sources of
power generation located throughout the system and closer to the end user (as
opposed to generation from a large centralized source). For example, rooftop
solar panels or small-scale wind systems installed at homes and businesses.
Microgrids also could be considered distributed generation.
Distribution - Power delivery from the substation to the
end user (residential, commercial, industrial).
Distribution automation - Programs and technologies
designed for an intelligent grid and used to ensure consistent power quality
and reliability and accommodate two-way power flows.
Distributed generation - Small-scale power generation
facilities, particularly renewables, close to consumers to boost efficiency
while lowering costs and reducing environmental risks. Also refers to
residential and commercial renewable energy sources, such as wind turbines and
Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) - An
independent public interest energy and environmental research organization that
focuses on issues and challenges related to electric power.
Electric vehicle (EV) - Originally, the term referred
to vehicles that operate exclusively on electric power. More recently, the term
describes the entire family of vehicles that use electricity as a power source
including plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and battery electric vehicles.
Energy Independence and Security Act - Enacted
by Congress in 2007 to direct national energy policy.
EV charging infrastructure - Integrated residential,
public and commercial equipment, software, systems and management tools
required to provide charging facilities for electric vehicles.
EV charging station - The location where EV battery
charging is provided, including residential, public and other facilities.
Energy density - The amount of energy in a source of fuel,
such as lithium-ion, nickel metal hydride or lead acid batteries.
Efficiency - The term refers to the practice of using
less power without affecting the services provided (heating, cooling, lighting,
etc.). It is included here as efficiency is considered a form of conservation,
the ultimate sustainable resource.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) - An independent agency
responsible for regulating interstate transmission of electricity, high-voltage
transmission systems, wholesale electricity sales, and aspects of oil, gas, and
Flow battery - Rechargeable high power and very high
storage capacity battery, and used to level loads on the electrical grid.
Geographic information system (GIS) -
Digitally stores, analyzes, manages, and relays location-oriented data.
Numerous GIS software applications are available.
Geothermal energy - Taps the heat energy from fluids
deep within the earth, and used directly for heating or for electricity
Home area network (HAN) - Includes computer networking
within the home and bundled data, voice, and video services provided by
telephone companies. Usually refers to a short distance, low power approach
such as Zigbee and WiFi.
Home automation network - Monitoring and control systems
for residential use such as heating and lighting controls, security, and
appliance and electronics power consumption.
HomePlug – Developed by the HomePlug Powerline
Alliance, the term refers to a variety of power line communications standards
that support networking over a home’s existing electrical wiring.
Independent system operator (ISO) - An
organization established by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to control
and monitor electric power system operations, typically within one state.
In-home display – Tools designed to provide energy
consumers with real-time information on household consumption. There are a
variety of them on the market with varying levels of complexity and smart
Integration and management - The process of bringing power
from renewable sources into the electric grid. The integration and management
of renewable energy sources is critical because of the intermittent nature of
sources like wind and solar which do not provide power at a constant level.
Interoperability - The concept that devices,
software and programs from different sources can function together seamlessly.
Interruptible load - Electricity providers can, with
prior agreement with the customer, interrupt power delivery to accommodate the
occasions when the highest demand for power (peak load) occurs. This practice
usually involves large-scale industrial and commercial customers.
Investor-owned utility (IOU) - A privately held utility
(not operated by a government entity or a consumer cooperative).
Islanding - The ability to use distributed generation to
provide power when storms or other events have knocked out the utility’s
ability to provide power.
Line loss - Electric power lost during the process of
transmission, typically in the form of heat.
Lithium-ion battery - An increasingly popular and
relatively lightweight and high-capacity battery. Also referred to as Li-ion.
Used in EVs and many electronics.
Load management - A collection of strategies
intended to reduce or move demand from peak to off-peak periods. Another term
is load shifting.
Machine-to-machine (M2M) – This refers to various wired
and wireless technologies that allow communication between devices on a
Metering - Generally refers to any type of metering
system, such as old electromechanical meters, and the advanced smart meters
that are replacing them.
Meter data management (MDM) - As smart meter rollouts
continue, utilities are swamped with unprecedented amounts of data that can be
used to improve customer relationships, utility operations and business
Microgrid - Community-scale system built to
automatically separate itself from the primary electric grid during outages or
completely independent of the primary grid. The U.S. military is strongly interested
in microgrids as a way to improve reliability on its bases and increase
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) - A U.S.
Department of Commerce agency charged with identifying and evaluating standards
and technologies relevant to smart grid adoption. NIST has other
responsibilities, as well.
Net metering - Net metering allows consumers who
contribute power to the grid to receive credit for at least a portion of that
nEV - A “neighborhood” EV, intended for short trips.
Off peak - A period of reduced electrical demand.
management - Incorporates technologies such as GIS and smart meters to
quickly locate and manage power outages.
Peak demand - Periods when the demand for power is at
its highest, such as early morning and early evening or during extremely hot or
Peaker plant - Generally, these are older, low-efficiency
power plants brought online only during periods of peak demand. Because of
their age, inefficiency and intermittent use, peaker plants are extremely
expensive to operate.
Phantom load - Refers to power use in appliances after
they are turned off. Most electronics and related devices continue to consume
power, even when turned “off.”
Phasor measurement unit (PMU) - Phasor measurement units
help detect and mitigate congestion at various points on the grid by sampling
voltage and current several times a second. Also referred to as synchrophasor.
Photovoltaic system (PV) - Solar cells grouped in panels,
then linked together in arrays to transform sunlight into electricity.
PEV – Plug-in electric vehicle
PHEV – Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle
Public utility commission (PUC) - A state
agency responsible for setting rates and regulating services and other
activities of electric, gas and telecommunications utilities operating within
its state boundaries.
Public utility district (PUD) - A single-purpose
district established for the generation, transmission and distribution of
electricity or other services. Boundaries frequently extend beyond local
Rate base - A utility’s property value that determines
the utility’s permitted rate of return. That rate is set by a regulatory
Rate case - A request filed by an electric utility for
a consumer price increase with the appropriate state public utility
Real-time pricing - Charging consumers varying rates
for a service to reflect frequent cost fluctuations occurring over time, as
opposed to fixed pricing.
Regional transmission operator (RTO) - An
organization established at the direction of the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission to control the electrical power transmission system in a service
area that extends beyond state borders.
Reliability - The term refers to how well a device,
technology, application or software functions within accepted standards.
Typically, reliability addresses adequate power generation and transmission
resources to ensure that enough power can be delivered to meet demand with
enough in reserve to handle unforeseen circumstances. Another key reliability
issue is security, that there will be enough power available even if outages or
equipment failures occur.
Renewable energy (also renewables) - A
variety of energy sources considered to be sustainable alternatives to oil,
coal and natural gas. These sources include solar and wind, geothermal, marine
and hydro and hybrid systems such as those incorporating geothermal and solar.
Rooftop PV (photovoltaic) - Solar arrays mounted on
rooftops. Increasingly common in residential, commercial and industrial
Secondary use - Using batteries previously used in electric
vehicles and plug-in for stationary electric grid storage after they no longer
have the capacity to meet the demands of use in a vehicle.
Security - With the smart grid’s more open forms of communications (such
as the Internet), those communications are more vulnerable to outside attack
and other disruptions. Because utilities are increasingly relying on those open
networks for grid monitoring and control, reliable security is essential to
reliable and safe smart grid operations.
Sensors - This term includes a variety of devices and/or software
designed to monitor and report on conditions that could lead to power outages
and damage to the electric grid. Sensors typically monitor temperature, line
sag, the condition of transformers, physical security and equipment conditions.
Smart charging - A group of technologies and equipment incorporated into EV charging infrastructure
to ensure integration with the electric grid without causing unmanageable
spikes in electricity demand.
Smart grid - While most industries in the energy sector
may define it a bit differently, it is basically using smart devices together with smart communications and smart software to
modernize the electric grid to conserve energy, reduce costs and increase
reliability, security and energy independence.
Smart meter - Gathers and transmits detailed consumption
data back to the local utility for monitoring and billing. Also monitors for
power quality and outages and facilitates communications between utilities and
Solar energy - Energy from the sun converted to
electricity by a photovoltaic system incorporating sunlight gathering solar
cells into panels.
Standards - Standards are critical to the smart grid
initiative because they are the instruments used to ensure reliability,
efficiency and interoperability throughout the electric grid. Standards are
used to enforce those concepts to help guarantee that devices, applications and
systems can efficiently work together.
Storage - Grid-scale energy storage is a booming smart grid market and
includes a variety of storage technologies, such as compressed air, stationary
batteries, ice, flywheels and molten salt to name a few. The ability to store
energy is particularly critical with the growing popularity of wind and solar
energy sources because they are intermittent power sources, and storage is
necessary to avoid wide fluctuations of power brought into the electric grid.
Substation - The site where equipment for switching or
regulating electrical voltage is located.
Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) - A
computer system that monitors an industrial, infrastructure or facility-based
Transmission - The delivery of bulk high-voltage
electricity from the generating plant to substations and the distribution
Time of day rate (TOD) - The rate charged to electric
utility customers based on the varying costs of delivering service at different
times throughout the day.
Time of use (TOU) - An energy cost reduction
measure that permits consumers to shift power consumption to off-peak hours.
Ultracapacitor - A capacitor used in large-scale
applications, such as powering a bus.
Volt/VAR optimization - Transmitting the correct
voltage to each customer rather than sending higher voltages to all users as a
“just in case” measure. Also referred to simply as Volt/VAR. There also are
other variations in terminology.
V2G - The integration of EVs into the smart grid. In other words, the
use of EVs as a backup source of power for the electric grid during periods of
WiFi - One of the wireless communications technologies favored in home
area network device communications and other applications.
WiMax - Another wireless communications technology used to transmit
data using a variety of transmission methods. Typically covers wider areas than
Wind turbines - A modern day windmill, wind turbines
harness energy from the wind to generate electric power. Wind farms They are
often part of large land-based wind farms but wind turbines are also becoming
more popular as devices to rein in offshore wind.
ZEV - A zero emissions vehicle.
Zigbee – A wireless technology designed as an open standard to promote
interoperability in a wide variety of smart energy products.