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Industry leaders, along with DOE and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, use the term GridWise to represent the concept of an advanced electric power grid for the 21st century.

An historic Memorandum of Understanding between the DOE Office of Electricity Distribution and Energy Reliability GridWise Program (then Office of Electric Distribution and Transmission) and the GridWise Alliance was signed on March 25, 2004.


The nation's prosperity and the American way of life depend upon efficient and affordable energy. Without a major shift in the way the energy system is planned, built and operated, the U.S. will invest nearly $500 billion in conventional electric infrastructure over the next 20 years to meet expected growth. Minimizing the cost of new electric infrastructure is key to strengthening the U.S. economy.

In the spring of 2000, technical leaders at PNNL began to think about how energy systems would evolve in the first decades of the 21st Century. Experts in the electric power grid, skilled in transmission system dynamics and analyses of blackouts, had also been engaged in trying to understand and shape the potential influence of broadly integrated distributed resources, such as distributed generation and load management. In parallel, energy scientists had seen the enormous opportunity for automated diagnostic systems to identify energy waste in commercial building energy systems. The backdrop of California's electricity crisis highlighted how existing energy markets frustrated the introduction of new technologies that could really make a difference.

The convergence of these ideas led to the notion that information technology is the key catalyst and enabler for realizing the potential of new energy technologies to transform the electric power system. Information technology is vital to transforming the electric power system from a rigid, hierarchical system to a collaborative, distributed, commerce-driven "society" of devices that would enhance the utilization of expensive assets and simultaneously increase reliability and security.

Shortly thereafter, PNNL began its internally funded Energy System Transformation Initiative (ESTI). Working with DOE's Advanced Communication and Control Program, PNNL assisted with a number of cross-industry workshops and road-mapping sessions to refine this vision of the grid of the future. In parallel, PNNL's ESTI began investing in research to build the basic science and technology foundation to support the transformation and identify the characteristics of the technologies and policies involved. The term GridWise was selected to represent the vision for an advanced electric system based on the accumulated knowledge gained from these efforts.

The foundation of the GridWise vision for the future electric system is the assertion that information technology can revolutionize the electric system as it has other aspects of U.S. business because, fundamentally, "bits are cheaper than iron." Bringing the electric system into the information age would allow the nation to realize the benefits already achieved by leading-edge industries that use real-time information, distributed e-business systems, and market efficiencies to minimize the need for inventory and infrastructure, and to maximize productivity, efficiency, and reliability.

With the help of information technologies, the creation of a distributed, yet integrated system will empower consumers to participate in energy markets—the key to stabilizing prices. Market participants from utilities to new third parties to consumers will create value by developing and deploying solutions that cross enterprise and regulatory boundaries. At the same time, this transformation of the energy system responds to the urgent need to enhance national security. A distributed, network-based electric system will reduce single-point vulnerabilities and allow the grid to become "self-healing," by incorporating autonomic system reconfiguration in response to human-caused or natural disruptions.

While this vision is revolutionary in the degree of transformation it represents, it also is the culmination of other historic efforts such as integrated resource planning, distributed generation, distributed utility, and demand response/load management. The intent of GridWise is to transform these pioneering efforts and ideas into business as usual for all elements of the power system, at all levels, from central generation, transmission and distribution to customer systems.

GridWise efforts are now branching well beyond PNNL. The terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, the August 2003 power blackout in the Northeast and the power outages caused by Hurricane Isabel one month later focused attention on the importance and the vulnerabilities of our nation's existing energy infrastructure. Subsequently, GridWise was proposed as a new DOE program for fiscal year 2005 as a Presidential Initiative. The GridWise Alliance was established to formalize industry involvement and realize the GridWise vision in partnership with DOE, and in 2004 the GridWise Architecture Council was formed to define an overall framework for interoperable, transactive communications.

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