FERC lays out priorities for Smart Grid standards

The commission says standards need to focus on cybersecurity

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has said that standards being developed for the country’s smart grid should put a priority on cybersecurity and systems monitoring.

FERC's July 16 policy statement, which is meant to guide industry as it develops standards for interoperability and functionality of smart-grid systems and devices, also encouraged the coordinated integration of emerging technologies such as renewable resources.

The development of the smart grid – an information technology-enabled, next-generation power distribution system – is a priority of the Obama administration. FERC’s jurisdiction over smart-grid standards comes from the Federal Power Act and more recently, the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007.

The EISA law gave the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) the main responsibility for working with industry to develop a framework of standards and protocols to ensure the interoperability and security for the grid. However, the law states the final standards need to be approved by FERC, which has regulatory authority over the interstate industry.

"The policy statement provides important guidance to focus and expedite ongoing industry efforts to develop interoperability standards – this will enable entrepreneurs to deploy new market based technologies to improve efficiency and reliability,” Marc Spitzer, a FERC commissioner, said in a statement.

NIST has a three-phased program to develop key technical standards for the smart grid. Meanwhile, FERC said in its policy statement that the process of developing smart-grid standards should focus on:
  • Cybersecurity and physical security.
  • Communicating and coordinating across inter-system interfaces.
  • Wide-area situational awareness.
  • Smart grid-enabled response for energy demand.
  • Electric storage.
  • Electric vehicle transportation.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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