First draft of a framework for building a Smart Grid unveiled

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke has unveiled the first draft of a Smart Grid framework that lays the foundation for a secure, interoperable, next-generation power distribution system.

The report, titled "Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability Standards, Release 1.0" and developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, identifies about 80 existing standards that apply to the development of the new grid infrastructure, and outlines steps to address key gaps remaining to be addressed.

“The Smart Grid will ultimately require hundreds of standards,” the framework says. “Some are more urgently needed than others,” because equipment such as smart meters that can monitor residential power use and provide data back to the utility, already are being deployed. The current report “is only the beginning of an ongoing process that is needed to create the full set of standards that will be needed to manage their evolution in response to new requirements and technologies.”

The framework is the product of the first phase of an aggressive three-phase program by NIST to establish Smart Grid standards by the end of the year.

The Smart Grid program was established in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The program 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. The Smart Grid would use intelligent networking and automation to better control the flow and delivery of electricity to consumers, enabling a two-way flow of electricity and information between the power plant and the appliance and points in between. With money for developing and fielding new electric grid technology becoming available with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, industry now needs standards for interoperability and security.

The Energy Independence and Security Act gave the Energy Department 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’s three-phase approach to standards development is:

  • 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;
  •  Finalization of today’s report after a 30 day comment period will complete this phase;
  • Launch formal partnerships to develop the remaining needed standards; and
  • Develop a program for testing and certification to ensure that Smart Grid equipment and systems comply with standards;

NIST awarded a $1.3 million contract to the Electric Power Research Institute of Palo Alto, Calif., to create an interim report on Smart Grid architecture and a standards roadmap. That report, released in June, found that industry understanding of existing technical standards and issues facing a nationwide Smart Grid was incomplete and parochial.

The framework report identified eight areas of standards development that should receive high priority:

  • Demand response and consumer energy efficiency
  • Wide-area situational awareness
  • Electric storage
  • Electric transportation
  • Advanced metering infrastructure
  • Distribution grid management
  • Cyber security
  • Network communications

Since it began standards work in April, NIST has identified 77 existing standards as applicable to the Smart Grid. Additional gaps requiring new standards to be developed also were identified. A total of 70 gaps and issues were identified, and of these 14 areas were targeted as most urgent. Action plans are being developed for these 14 areas:

  • Smart meter upgradeability
  • Common specification for price and product definition
  • Common scheduling mechanism for energy transactions
  • Common information model for distribution grid management
  • Standard demand response signals
  • Standard for energy use information
  • IEC 61850 Objects and DNP3 Mapping
  • Time synchronization
  • Transmission and distribution power systems models mapping
  • Guidelines for use of IP protocol suite in the Smart Grid
  • Guidelines for use of wireless communications in the Smart Grid
  • Electric storage interconnection guidelines
  • Interoperability standards to support plug-in electric vehicles
  • Standard meter data profiles

Other elements of the report include a Smart Grid conceptual reference model that describes the interactions between key elements of an intelligent power distribution system, and a security model.

“Ensuring cyber security of the Smart Grid is a critical priority,” the report said. “To achieve this requires that security be designed n at the architectural level.”

NIST is leading a Cyber Security Coordination Task Group that is leading development of the cyber security strategy. Results of the group’s work will be released soon in a separate Interagency Report.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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