News Release

Release Date: May 28, 2014

Smart Grid Tool Helps Utility Companies Make Smart Decisions




Transforming the nation’s aging power grid—the interconnected system of electric power generation, transmission, and distribution—into a reliable smart grid that bolsters national security, improves emissions, and fuels a growing economy requires utility company leaders to make complex business and technology decisions. The Energy Department is providing assistance to navigate those challenges.

In 2010, the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), on behalf of the Energy Department’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, awarded a contract to Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute to expand upon a tool known as the Smart Grid Maturity Model (SGMM)—an initiative begun in 2007 by a coalition of utility companies to help sort out the many technology options available for grid upgrades.

Elevating a system to a smart grid involves use of digital communications and controls. Utilities must be able to incorporate new power sources, such as wind and solar, into the grid; manage energy storage technologies; and create and operate demand response programs. To accomplish this, utility leaders need effective roadmaps and the ability to track their progress to clearly see which technologies provide the greatest benefits to themselves and their customers. Unfortunately, their efforts are often hindered by a lack of field experience.

The SGMM was developed to meet these needs. The model contains implementation roadmaps, tracks progress in technology deployment, and makes comparisons possible among participating utility companies. The model’s developers used responses to 175 survey questions to assess an electric grid’s maturity across eight smart grid activities: strategy, management, and regulatory; organization and structure; grid operations; work and asset management; technology; customer; value chain integration; and societal and environmental.

Rankings range from "pioneering," the highest level, down to "default," the status quo. The rankings help utility leaders determine the current state of smart grid implementation and consider and prioritize all aspects of transition to an intelligent modern grid. Since 2008, the SGMM has been used by more than 140 utilities.

The Software Engineering Institute’s NETL-managed work builds on the success of the original model. For example, a new service has been added: certified SGMM Navigators are available to provide hands-on guidance for effective use of the model. The Navigators assist utilities in completing the survey and interpreting results. Specifically, they provide—

  • An informed, shared smart grid vision.

  • Greater communication among stakeholders through use of a common language.

  • Prioritization of options and support for decision-making.

  • A process for utilities to track their smart grid implementation over time.

  • Avenues for comparison of individual utility company results with other SGMM users.

There are currently 18 certified SGMM Navigators, with another 18 candidates awaiting final certification. The Software Engineering Institute also provides education, training, awareness, and research collaboration to support and expand use of SGMM.

SGMM has proved to be a valuable resource for smart grid implementation that continues to grow in popularity and use. For more information, please visit the Software Engineering Institute’s smart grid website.

This month, NETL and many other of the Energy Department’s national labs are showcasing their contributions to "Electricity Across America.” For more information, please visit the Energy Department’s national lab webpage.