“The electricity grid can only get so smart without a framework for interoperability,” explains the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) on the first page of an important 291 page report released today that focuses on identifying key standards and guidelines for building out the smart grid. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) contracted EPRI to produce the report, which will help NIST develop the first phase of its smart grid standards due out in September. EPRI has spent the last several months racing to conduct workshops and meet with industry and standards groups, in an effort to produce the document.
While we’re still poring over the hundreds of pages (read it yourself here), the intention of the EPRI report is to look at the “current status, issues, and priorities” needed to develop interoperable smart grid standards. The report includes conceptual models of the smart grid, and takes a look at what architectural principles the infrastructure needs. The power grid is one of the most complex network infrastructures in the U.S. — connecting buildings as well as power generation and utilities control systems — and EPRI has taken a look at standards that affect smart meters, demand response services, plug-in electric vehicles, monitoring and control systems, market communications and distributed generation and energy storage.
Out of the pages of dry standards language, expect some hot debates to arise over a few key issues. EPRI recommends that NIST take a further look at what is needed for Internet Protocol to play a role in the smart grid. The “IP or not IP” debate has been one of the loudest in the smart grid space.
EPRI also asks NIST to put together a group to study the issue of interference in unlicensed radio spectrum (spectrum which isn’t owned by any one group and is available for access by anyone that abides by the unlicensed rules) for smart grid applications, a topic we’ve written about several times. The companies that are selling smart grid gear and services that will run in licensed spectrum (owned and controlled) are contesting that there is an issue with communications interference (noise) in unlicensed spectrum, while companies that are developing products for unlicensed spectrum say there is no problem with interference in unlicensed spectrum.
And of course the topic of the week — smart grid cyber security — plays a large role in EPRI’s report. The report has an entire section on security issues and points out how policy makers and companies need to look at smart grid security from a business and consumer perspective and also from a national security standpoint.
We’ll bring you more from the report as we wade through it.