NIST Seeks Public Comment on Smart Grid Framework

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) of the US Department of Commerce on September 24 released its first round of almost 80 draft "Smart Grid" standards, which are intended to establish a framework for Smart Grid development.  These initial standards establish a conceptual model for the Smart Grid by (1) addressing how the many complex systems that make up the Smart Grid interrelate to each other; (2) developing a cyber-security strategy; and (3) identifying interfaces for which interoperability standards are needed.  (Interoperability-a key issue in standards for the Smart Grid-refers to the ability of diverse systems and their components to work together.)  The standards are available for public comment for the next 30 days (until around October 24, 2009), after which NIST will finalize them and send them to FERC for final approval and formal issuance.

The September 24 NIST report also identifies a number of gaps that must be addressed in the final standards and prioritizes 14 items that "most urgently" need support.  These priority items include the need to develop standards for upgrading smart meters, price and product definitions, energy-use information, guidelines for wireless communications, and electric storage and vehicle interoperability standards.  NIST and stakeholders have already completed the first of these priority items, as the National Electrical Manufacturers Association also announced on September 24 the first official standard on the ability to upgrade smart meters.

Congress originally mandate Smart Grid standards in the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 and assigned NIST the primary responsibility of developing standards and protocols to support a Smart Grid.  Last spring, NIST developed a three-phase plan to accelerate identification of standards and priority items while allowing a longer-term evolution of standards and testing and certification procedures.  The September 24 report was the result of "phase one" of this process, which NIST describes as establishing a high-level reference model for the Smart Grid.  NIST compiled the phase one standards after holding three public workshops in April, May, and August 2009, in which approximately 1500 individuals participated.

"Phase two" of the process will establish a "Smart Grid Interoperability Panel" to continue the standards process.  In "phase three", NIST proposes to develop and implement a framework for standard testing and certification.  NIST plans to begin implementing the standards in 2010.