California’s Push for Managing Distributed Energy Resources (DER)

James Mater, General Manager, Smart Grid QualityLogic, Inc and Member, GridWise Architecture Council Chair, Smart Grid NW, Rudi Schubert, Director - New Initiatives IEEE Standards Association


It was a significant step forward for grid modernization—certainly in California but quite likely in other states and regions of the world, as well—when the California Public Utility Commission (PUC) on 23 June 2016 issued an order identifying IEEE 2030.5™, IEEE Standard for Smart Energy Profile Application Protocol, as the default communications protocol for linking Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) with operations of the power grid.

Coordinated DERs can be tools for balancing out system issues caused by their proliferation, as well as the inherent intermittency of interconnected wind and solar energy sources. Many of the envisioned, historic benefits of grid modernization and smart grid rollout—enhancing the reliability of electricity delivery, reducing the net power costs for consumers, supporting more stable and sustainable national energy strategies, lessening the environmental impact of humanity’s power needs, etc.—are predicated on increased reliance on DERs and their coordination with grid operational needs.

IEEE 2030.5 defines a smart energy profile for managing energy resources in buildings, including DERs. The standard, published in 2013, defines an application protocol for management of the end-user energy environment, for applications such as demand response, load control, electric vehicles, DER and time-of-day pricing.

With the decision by the California PUC, IEEE 2030.5 has been formally adopted for a specific application in one of the most influential U.S. states. In doing so, the California order provides a regulatory driver and specific application use case for the utilities, vendors, aggregators and others to implement IEEE 2030.5 in their products. It also could deliver a terrific boost to DER proliferation and grid modernization at large.

Supporting Smart Inverter Communications

In its June decision[1], the California PUC formally adopted the IEEE 2030.5 application-layer protocol as the default standard for smart inverter communications by the state’s investor-owned utilities (IOUs): Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison.

California’s Electric Tariff Rule 21 generally governs the interconnection process for DERs in the state. The California PUC convened its Smart Inverter Working Group (SIWG) in 2013, in order to recommend technical modifications to Rule 21 that would enable grid operators to better leverage smart inverters, which can be used to connect solar resources and other DER with the electrical grid.

The SIWG’s initial recommendations (adopted by the full PUC in December 2014) called for Phase 1 modifications around autonomous smart-inverter functions such as anti-islanding protection and low- and high-frequency ride-through capabilities. The SIWG went on in February 2015 to detail Phase 2 communications recommendations and in March 2015 to identify Phase 3 key requirements and additional issues for discussion.

The June PUC order adopts the SIWG recommendations for both Phase 2 and Phase 3. The IOUs “shall file proposed revisions to Tariff Rule 21 setting forth any agreed-upon technical requirements, testing and certification processes, and effective dates for Phase 2 communication protocols and Phase 3 additional advanced inverter functions in separate Tier 3 advice letters no later than six months from the effective date of this decision.”[2]

The California order also requires minor enhancements to the IEEE 2030.5 standard. This work is already in process by the IEEE 2030.5 standards-development working group—and now takes on more urgency with the June order.

Upcoming Industry Symposium

In conjunction with the California IOUs, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), SunSpec, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and others, the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE SA) is hosting its second Symposium and Exposition for DER Management using IEEE 2030.5 on 1 November at Southern California Edison’s Energy Education Center – Irwindale.

Vendors who are either using or considering adding IEEE 2030.5 are invited to attend the event and exhibit their products that support IEEE 2030.5. More than 10 vendors of products capable of IEEE 2030.5-based communications attended the 2015 symposium, and more are expected to exhibit this year. It is important to the industry to know that vendors are able to support the regulatory mandates.

Important questions will be explored at the symposium, among them:

  • In the DER use case, how does IEEE 2030.5 fit together with the other relevant standards such as IEEE 1547™, IEEE Standard for Distributed Resources Interconnected with Electric Power Systems, IEEE 1815™, IEEE Standard for Electric Power Systems Communications-Distributed Network Protocol (DNP3); SunSpec; IEC 61850, and UL 1741SA?
  • What is IEEE 2030.5’s unique role and purpose for the application?
  • What is the status of the IEEE 2030.5 updates, testing and certification?
  • What is the timetable for actual deployments of smart inverters and utility-DER communications in California, and what are the technical and organizational challenges to implementation?
  • What will be the impact of smart inverters and DER management on utilities over the next five to 10 years?

Beyond California

Progress in DER integration is apparent in other regions, as well. South Korea, for example, is adopting IEEE 2030.5 as the standard for specific implementations of demand-response applications and has undertaken formal conformance testing on four products that support IEEE 2030.5.

Instances of adoption of global smart grid standards, such as these in South Korea and California, help fuel grid modernization around the world.

[1] Rulemaking 11-09-011, Agenda ID #14667, June 23, 2016,

[2] See Order 9, page 50.

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