A new standard providing for a modular communication interface (MCI) to be used with any demand response programs has just been released by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). What the standard does is define a port/plug that transforms off-the-shelf consumer products into devices compatible with any utility demand response system via plug-in communications modules that customers can install themselves.
CEA says the standard is the solution to the issue of extending smart grid infrastructure into homes and businesses, even in today's constant technological innovation and standards competition. The communications interface is designed to work with any demand response system, from AMI, Smart Energy Profile and Open ADR to home and building networks.
As a CEA paper explaining the standard says, "The concept is simple; encourage manufacturers to build an MCI interface into their products that can accept a simple communications module. Consumers and program managers are then free to select whatever communication solution works best for that particular environment."
The bonus is that the standard makes it a practical for device manufacturers to make their mainstream models demand response-ready and available through typical retail supply outlets with not much in terms of upfront costs.
And there are pluses for consumers and utilities. Consumers who are moving can disconnect their appliances with them and be assured they will be compatible with other programs elsewhere, and utilities can choose and develop their communications systems and demand response without affecting consumer products.
The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) earlier conducted laboratory interoperability demonstrations and determined the standard will work as intended. EPRI is now conducting field demonstrations and concentrating on thermostats, HVAC, water heaters, pool pumps and EV service equipment.