First set of Smart Grid standards submitted to energy regulators

NIST awaits word on adoption

A set of five foundational technical standards for Smart Grid interoperability and security have undergone a cybersecurity review by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and have been submitted to federal regulators for adoption.

Four of the standards, produced by the International Electrotechnical Commission, deal with communications protocols for the exchange of information on the intelligent power distribution grid, and the final addresses cybersecurity for these protocols.

“This is the first set of standards that NIST has identified as ready for consideration by regulators,” NIST Smart Grid leader George Arnold wrote to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. “These standards are identified because they are essential to uniform and interoperable communication systems throughout the grid.”

Related coverage:

NIST completes first release of Smart Grid framework

As smart grid approaches, security concerns follow

NIST was given responsibility under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 for coordinating development of communication protocols and other standards for an interoperable electric power distribution system that can support two-way flows of power and data. Once the standards have been vetted by NIST, it is up to FERC to adopt them through formal rulemaking procedures.

The act gave the Energy Department the overall lead for Smart Grid development, and the department is funding additional research into security technology for the smart infrastructure. It recently awarded about $6.5 million to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory for research over the next three years on technology to ensure the reliability and security of the system.

“Compared with the grid of today, this is going to be a major transformation over the next decade,” said Thomas King, director of the lab’s Energy Efficiency and Electricity Technology program.

The Smart Grid 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 to ensure the interoperability and security of technology that is being implemented.

NIST led development of “A Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability Standards,” the first version of which was released in January. It identifies existing technical standards likely to be applicable to a Smart Grid and prioritizes future standards making activity.

The five standards identified by NIST as “ready for consideration” by FERC were among 25 grid-related standards identified in the Framework as “ready for implementation.” Another 50 or so standards applicable to the Smart Grid were identified as needing additional development. But before standards can be passed along to FERC for consideration they must undergo a cybersecurity review by NIST. This could not be done until the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel spearheaded by NIST completed its Guidelines for Smart Grid Cyber Security in September.

All other standards also will undergo cybersecurity review before submission to regulators. The first standards submitted by NIST are:

  • IEC 61970, Energy Management System Application Program Interfaces, and IEC 61968, Application Integration and electric Utilities. These define information exchanged among control center systems using a Common Information Model.
  • IEC 61850, Communications Networks and Systems for Power Utility Automation. This defines communications within transmission and distribution substations for automation and protection.
  • IEC 60870, Telecontrol Application Service Element standards. These facilitate control center data exchange and define the electric power system status and control messages between control centers of different utilities.
  • IEC 62351, Power Systems Management and Associated Information Exchange—Data and Communications Security. These cover information security for power system control operations.

The Smart Grid will differ from today’s grid in that it will include high visibility and situational awareness at all levels of the system, from power generation to smart meters in customer premises, and the ability to use this information to ensure reliability and security of the system, Kind said.

Researchers at Oak Ridge have received $3 million in Energy Department funding for work on Automated Vulnerability Detection for Compiled Smart Grid Software. It will be cooperating with Carnegie Mellon University and EnerNex Corp. It is getting another $3 million for work on a Next Generation Secure, Scalable Communications Network for the Smart Grid that will use a patented hybrid spread-spectrum technology developed at Oak Ridge. The hybrid uses a combination of direct sequence and frequency hopping spread spectrum radios to ensure availability and security of wireless communications.

“We foresee that wireless will be a big part” of Smart Grid control systems, King said.

The lab also will receive $150,000 a year for three years to participate in a Cyber Analysis Center led by the Electric Power Research Institute.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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