NIST releases roadmap for producing Smart Grid standards

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has announced an aggressive three-phase program to develop key technical standards for an intelligent power distribution grid by the end of the year.

The Smart Grid program was established in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007; the Smart Grid has been identified as an important element of the Obama administration’s economic recovery program with the promise of creating jobs, contributing to energy independence and curbing greenhouse gas emissions. With money for developing and fielding new electric grid technology becoming available with the economic stimulus law, industry now needs standards for interoperability and security.

“We are working with a sense of urgency to expedite the development of standards critical to ensuring a reliable and robust Smart Grid,” said NIST Deputy Director Patrick Gallagher.

NIST has outlined a three-phase approach to standards development:

  • Develop a consensus among utilities, equipment suppliers, consumers, standards developers and other stakeholders on needed standards; and producing a Smart Grid architecture, an initial set of standards to support implementation and plans for developing remaining standards by early fall.
  • Launch formal partnerships to develop the remaining needed standards.
  • Develop a program for testing and certification to ensure that Smart Grid equipment and systems comply with standards.

The Smart Grid would use intelligent networking and automation to better control the flow and delivery of electricity to consumers. It is “a fully automated power delivery network that monitors and controls every customer and node, ensuring a two-way flow of electricity and information between the power plant and the appliance, and all points in between,” the Energy Department said in its National Vision for Electricity’s Next 100 Years report“Its distributed intelligence, coupled with broadband communications and automated control systems, enables real-time market transactions and seamless interfaces among people, buildings, industrial plants, generation facilities, and the electric network.”

The Energy Independence and Security Act gave Energy the overall lead of the Smart Grid program and assigned to NIST the job of developing a framework of standards and protocols to ensure interoperability and security. Final standards will be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has regulatory authority over the interstate industry.

NIST established a full-time position to lead Smart Grid activities in March and named George Arnold, NIST deputy director of technology services to head up the effort. Arnold formerly was with Bell Laboratories and was chairman of the American National Standards Institute. He said the aggressive timeline is doable because much of the work already has been done by industry, and much of NIST’s job will be to prioritize needs and identify existing standards to meet them.

The first phase of the program already is underway, and NIST has awarded a $1.3 million contract to the Electric Power Research Institute of Palo Alto, Calif., to help develop an interim report on Smart Grid architecture and a standards roadmap. A stakeholders’ summit to help develop a consensus on needs is being scheduled for May 19 and 20 in Washington and the interim roadmap is expected by early summer.

The stimulus law provides $4.5 billion to help Energy  jump start Smart Grid. NIST will use part of its own appropriation under the recovery act together with $10 million from Energy to carry out the standards development program.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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