Journal:Energy informatics: Fundamentals and standardization

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Full article title Energy informatics: Fundamentals and standardization
Journal ICT Express
Author(s) Huang, Biyao; Bai, Xiaomin; Zhou, Zhenyu; Cui,Quansheng; Zhu, Daohua; Hu, Ruwei
Author affiliation(s) China Electric Power Research Institute, Global Energy Interconnection Research Institute,
North China Electric Power University, State Grid Jiangsu Electric Power Research Institute
Primary contact Email: huangby at geiri dot sgcc dot com dot cn
Year published 2017
Volume and issue 3 (2)
Page(s) 76–80
DOI 10.1016/j.icte.2017.05.006
ISSN 2405-9595
Distribution license Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International
Download (PDF)


Based on international standardization and power utility practices, this paper presents a preliminary and systematic study on the field of energy informatics and analyzes boundary expansion of information and energy systems, and the convergence of energy systems and ICT. A comprehensive introduction of the fundamentals and standardization of energy informatics is provided, and several key open issues are identified.

Keywords: Smart energy, ICT, Energy informatics


With the changing of global climate and a world energy shortage, a smooth transition from conventional fossil fuel-based energy supplies to renewable energy sources is critical for the sustainable development of human society. Meanwhile, the energy domain is experiencing a paradigmatic change by integrating conventional energy systems with advanced information and communication technologies (ICT), which poses new challenges to the efficient operation and design of energy systems.

From a technical perspective, with the purpose of supplying end-users with energy service comes the design of energy systems.[1] From a structural point of view, all of the components in an energy system have connections with production, transition, delivery, and energy usage.[2] From the view of socioeconomics, an energy system includes energy markets and they treat it as a technical and economic system to satisfy consumers’ demand for energy in forms of heat, fuels, and electricity. Moreover, an energy system is subject to various influences, for instance, business models, markets, regulations, customer behavior and the natural environment. These definitions are related to information from a system (or system of systems) point-of-view.

In the process of smart grid development, most power companies have already deployed plenty of automation and information systems. In order to control and manage the power grid, some power companies have implemented intelligent energy dispatching systems, wide-area measurement systems, grid condition monitoring systems, electric vehicle charging monitoring networks, distribution automation systems, mobile operational applications for condition-based maintenance and advanced metering infrastructure, etc. At the same time, some power companies also have arranged enterprise ERP systems and centralized data centers in order to manage individual businesses effectively and efficiently.

The monitoring system of communication network and information system is isolated to a considerable extent and has failed to form a coordinated ICT (information and communication technology) monitoring system. It is very difficult to conduct a comprehensive analysis and evaluation based on the monitoring data of information and communication network operation. For example, it is unlikely to accurately locate where the fault or alarm occurs in an ICT system, meaning that it cannot adapt to future power grid operation and management needs. In the year 2011, SGCC (State Grid Corporation of China) built a unified ICT operation and monitoring center and put it into operation. This unified ICT operation and monitoring center enables the real-time monitoring of smart grid ICT, unified dispatch of ICT resources, and integrated security defense. The system ensures the security of company information and communication systems security operation.[3]

To promote the integration of energy and information, Richard T. Watson et al. advocated a research agenda to establish a new sub-field named energy informatics, which applies thinking and skills of information systems to increase energy efficiency.[4] Christoph Goebel et al. pointed out that smart energy-saving systems and smart grid are the two main application areas of energy informatics, which is currently evolving into an interdisciplinary research area.[5] Meanwhile, new concepts such as smart grid, smart energy, energy internet, macro energy system, etc., have constantly emerged and have placed new research requirements on the field of energy informatics. Hence, it is necessary to provide a comprehensive review of the fundamentals of energy informatics and the respective standardization progress.

In this paper, energy informatics is a multidisciplinary study, which can perform with a higher accuracy and involve several disciplines. Each of the disciplines provides a different perspective on an energy system's problem or issue, especially a view on energy systems from the view of informatics. Its goal is to use emerging new information and communication technologies to make energy systems increasingly efficient, effective, safe, secure, economical, and relevant.

The paper is structured as follows. Section 2 provides an overview of some typical new concepts of energy systems. In Section 3, we discuss the convergence of energy systems and ICT. Section 4 analyzes the technical fundamentals of energy informatics. Section 5 presents the standardization of energy informatics. Finally, in Section 6, we conclude the paper and present future research directions.

New concepts of energy systems

New-generation energy system

In 2013, Zhou et al. proposed a concept of third-generation power grid and new generation energy systems.[6] The third-generation power grid (also generally regarded as a new-generation power system) was launched at the beginning of the 21st century, featuring centralized intelligence and the integration of non-fossil fuel generation. In China, the general objective of constructing such a next-generation energy system is to make efficient use of renewable energy sources and to accelerate the transition of energy consumption in the whole nation.[7]

Multi-energy system

Power system flexibility describes the system's ability to cope with events that may cause imbalances between supply and demand at different time frames while maintaining the system reliability in a cost-effective manner. Interaction with other energy sectors can identify flexibility resources from a power system’s point-of-view. Mancarella[8] presented the concept of multi energy system (MES) and presented several interactions between electricity, heat, gas, hydrogen, transport sector, and so on. In MES, electricity, heat, cooling, fuels, and so on optimally interact with each other at various levels (for instance, within a district, city or region), which represents an important opportunity to improve technical, economic and environmental performance of conventional energy systems.

Macro energy system

To ensure the security performance of the system, the upstream primary energy supply system and downstream demand-side energy consumption should be studied at the level of a macro energy system.[9] Disturbances of external factors such as nature, social, and economic environment may affect the operation of energy systems. Conversely, the security and the stability of an energy system will affect the external environments as well. Therefore, the interactions between an energy system and external environments should be taken into consideration and studied within the context of a macro energy system.[10]

Convergence of energy system and ICT

ICT-based energy system

Frik and Favre-Perrod[11] introduced hybrid energy hubs as interfaces among energy producers, consumers, and transportation infrastructure. From a system point-of-view, an energy hub can be identified as a unit that provides the basic features including input/output, conversion, and storage. “Internet of energy,” as a new infrastructure, is an integration of small highly distributed energy production sources and advanced internet technologies. Karnouskos and Terzidis[12]describe information-driven services for a future energy system. Another similar terminology called “Energy Internet,” as a coined terminology, was first presented in 2009.[13]

Friedman[14] points out that in the Energy Internet age, hundreds of millions of people producing their own green energy in their homes, offices, and factories, and sharing it with each other in an “energy internet” are behaving similarly to how we now create and share information online. That aside, “energy router” is also described in some works.[15][16][17]

Both the internet and the electrical grid are designed to meet fundamental needs, for information and for energy, respectively, by connecting geographically dispersed suppliers with geographically dispersed consumers. Keshav and Rosenberg[18] identified similarities and differences between the internet and the electrical grid, and they proposed several specific aspects where internet concepts and technologies can contribute to the development of a smart, green grid.

Cyber-physical energy system approach

A cyber-physical energy system (CPES) is a holistic approach for heterogeneous energy system integration. It integrates the discrete domains of computing, communication and control capabilities, and the continuous natural or human-made physical world. In CPES, cyber capability is generally embedded in every physical component. CPES components are networked at multiple scales. Cyber and physical components are integrated for learning, adaptation, higher performance, self-organization, and self-assembly.[19] The development of novel ICT technologies enables energy stakeholders to easily collect and manage data from people, sensors, and connected assets. Energy stakeholders can utilize big data and analytics to provide new insights and recommendations to drive better decisions, and to enable cost reductions, energy savings and predictive maintenance.

Integration of macro energy thinking and big data thinking

Both Leucker and Sachenbacher[20], and Samad and Annaswamy[21] present a new and higher level cyber-physical energy system approach which integrates the macro energy thinking and big data thinking. The macro energy thinking, regarding electricity as a hub between energy production and consumption, breaks down the physical barriers among power systems, primary energy systems and end-use energy systems. The big data thinking regards various data resources as fundamental elements of production rather than simple process objects. The integration of macro energy thinking and big data thinking will make power-related big data become the foundation of an extensively interconnected, openly interactive and highly intelligent macro energy system. Key elements of this integration include the acquirement, transmission and storage of wide-area power data with different timescales, the data from related domains, as well as the fast and in-depth knowledge extraction from the multi-source heterogeneous data and its applications.

Technical fundamentals

Communication and network engineering

A communication network is essential to support the bi-directional flow of information. Based on the data rate, transmission range, and operation domain, communication networks in a smart grid can be classified as a customer premises area network (home area network, building area network, industrial area network), neighborhood area networks, field area network, and wide area network. Through the decoupling of data and control planes enabled by software-defined networking, a virtual network layer can be built on top of physical infrastructures, which allows multiple tenants and applications to reuse the same communication infrastructure without being tied to hardware details.

Computer science

The large number of programming languages and modeling formalisms developed in the last few years are currently spread among several disciplines and communities such as hybrid systems and control, AI (artificial intelligence)-based planning and scheduling, embedded systems design and verification, and constraint solving and optimization. However, these rapidly developing computer science technologies are not tailored so far to applications within the energy domain. It is essential to build appropriate simulation frameworks suitable for energy grids and their components, including prosumer behavior.[12] Furthermore, computing algorithms for autonomous and distributed power generation management that incorporate self-healing capabilities, security aspects, etc., are urgently required.

Control science and engineering

The incorporation of control science and engineering into energy informatics also faces several challenges. First, proper formulations of the cooperative/coordinated/collaborative energy control problems are needed for the full potential of this area to be realized. Second, the evolution of systems is likely to promote novel data-driven, empirical techniques such as identification, learning, and adaptation. Third, fault diagnosis and fault-tolerant control approaches are required to identify the individual failures caused by interconnections and interactions of a large number of components and equipment.

Information system (IS)/ Information technology (IT)

Ubiquitous information exchange and better awareness of energy availability and load profiles are essential to realize the next-generation energy system.[22][23] First of all, the incorporation of new technologies from different vendors raises the concern of interoperability. Secondly, how to efficiently utilize the big data related to every aspect of energy systems for performance improvement remains unclear. Thirdly, data security and privacy poses a new challenge since the leakage of the detailed energy usage information recorded in near real-time increases the tension between data access and data privacy.

System engineering

A smart grid or smart energy incorporates ICT over a modernized energy system infrastructure, resulting in a cyber-physical system extending from generation to consumption, facilitating the integration of distributed storage, renewable sources and electric vehicles.[24] Systems engineering focuses on how to design and manage complex engineering systems over their life cycles. The intelliGrid methodology is a subset of the science of systems engineering, which separates the concepts of “user requirements” from “technical specifications”: user requirements define “what” is needed without reference to any specific designs or technologies, while technical specifications define “how” to implement the automation systems to meet the user requirements.[25]

Standardization of energy informatics

Interoperability of smart grid

In the associated IEC standard, "smart grid" is defined as an electric power system that utilizes information exchange and control technologies, distributed computing and associated sensors and actuators for purposes such as integrating the behavior and actions of the network users and other stakeholders or efficiently delivering sustainable, economic and secure electricity supplies.[26] The smart grid architecture model (SGAM) proposed by Europe is a three-dimensional framework[24], described in Fig. 1. The X axis is composed of five domains including generation, transmission, distribution, distributed energy resource and customer premises. The Y axis described in IEC standard IEC TR 62357[25] has six zones including process, field, station, operation, enterprise and market. The Z axis described in IEC 62264[26] is composed of five interoperability layers representing business objectives and processes, functions, information exchange and models, communication protocols and components.[27] Each interoperability layer spans the electrical domains and information management zones.

Fig1 Huang ICTExpress2017 3-2.jpg

Figure 1. IEC smart grid architecture model

Interoperability of smart energy physical layer

The physical layer of energy infrastructure can be abstracted to a logical model including network, source, load, storage, and conversion elements, as shown in Fig. 2. The network includes an electrical network, gas or hydrogen network, heating network, cooling network and communication network. The source node includes power plants such as wind power plants, solar power plants, heat exchange stations, and so on. The load node includes industrial, building, commercial, residential load, etc. Storage includes electricity storage, heat storage, etc. Conversion includes heat pumps and electric boilers. Planning and operations across interdependent domains are necessary to achieve the most efficient, flexible, and reliable energy system.

Fig2 Huang ICTExpress2017 3-2.jpg

Figure 2. Interoperability of the smart energy physical layer

Conclusions and future directions

In this paper, we presented a comprehensive introduction of the fundamentals and standardization of energy informatics, and several key open issues are identified. In the future, energy informatics can play an important role in different stages of energy system development as follows:

  1. Standardizing open protocol for energy systems: Energy systems present new requirements for interconnection at the physical energy layer. Learning from the successful concepts and technologies pioneered by the internet, and establishing an open interconnection protocol are basic methods for the successful development of the future energy system. Since energy interconnection and information interconnection are based on different physical laws, the development of novel theoretical models and protocol standards are challenging yet represent exciting research directions of energy informatics.
  2. Establishing new information system infrastructure: Modern ICT technologies have dramatically improved the system capability on data aggregation and processing. With an increasing number of energy related elements, components and players are connected to one another in an energy system. It is urgent to conduct research and standardization activities on the energy information model and communication technologies for promoting energy integration at different scales.
  3. Developing new planning and design platform and related standards: There is a need not only to establish new system planning and system design principles and norms in international, national and other levels, but also to reconstruct the flat organization system oriented to multi-energy integration, which is the key to the “top-down” approach. It is essential to build an intelligent information system (or platform) to promote the interoperability and coordination of different energy systems and ICT planes involved in energy informatics standardization.


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This presentation is faithful to the original, with only a few minor changes to presentation. In some cases important information was missing from the references, and that information was added. The original mis-numbered inline references, and they have been updated for this version. Grammar and spelling were updated for readability and should not constitute "sufficient new creativity to be copyrightable"; no other modifications were made in accordance with the "no derivatives" portion of the distribution license.