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Smart-Grid Standards: First Phase Due In Weeks; Focus on IP, Security

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The clock is ticking for the standards bodies, companies and engineers looking to hash out what standards will govern the massive build-out of the smart grid. The first phase of the Interim SmartGrid Roadmap is supposed to be available this month (it’s already June 1, folks) with publication of a working RoadMap in September, and standards bodies have ratcheted up their efforts to hammer out the details.

This week the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) will be holding a conference to work on the interoperability standards for the smart grid, held at chipmaker Intel’s (s INTC) campus. The IEEE has already developed numerous standards that can relate to the smart grid, which Dick DeBlasio, IEEE chair of the SCC21 Working Group, says in presentation materials for the event includes: “diverse fields of digital information and controls technology, networking, security, reliability assessment, interconnection of distributed resources including renewable energy sources to the grid, sensors, electric metering, broadband over power line, and systems engineering.”

Can the IEEE meetings make a real dent in the RoadMap? Well, it was hard to pin down how much progress was made during the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) smart-grid standards workshop at the end of May. (That’s also the nature of the standards process.) Attendees we spoke with said the meeting was productive, but one of the real sticking points remains: how much emphasis to place on Internet Protocol. Expect the IEEE group to be relatively IP-friendly.

Security will also continue to be a large focus for standards bodies. The Department of Energy already announced that five of the first 16 smart-grid standards will look at security, but expect to see more discussion on this topic now that the Obama administration plans to soon announce its cybersecurity czar and has conducted a review of how to fix cybersecurity issues. The Wall Street Journal’s Environmental Capital Blog points out that the White House review already points out one recommendation that can apply to the smart grid:

“for high-value activities (e.g., the Smart Grid), an opt-in array of interoperable identity management systems to build trust for online transactions and to enhance privacy…In a nutshell, in order to keep people safe from hackers and the like, they’d have to go to the trouble themselves of signing up for whatever smart-grid products and services their local utilities eventually offer.”

That’s goods news for all those entrepreneurs building products and services to help consumers manage energy information on the smart grid. The White House is giving you the thumbs-up.

We’ll be bringing you the latest from the IEEE’s smart-grid work, and keep an eye out for when the initial working draft is starting to take some real shape.

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