Smart Grid Standards Road Map Coming this Week

If you’ve been waiting for some clarity about the dozens of standards that will make up pieces of the smart grid, look for it this week. The producers of the GridWeek conference, which runs Sept. 21-24 in Washington, D.C., are expecting to unveil the smart grid standards road map that the National Institute of Standards has been working on for many months.

Back in May, Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the first set of 16 standards, most of which were based on the leading standards bodies and have been established for years, like ZigBee and HomePlug for home area networks, ANSI for smart metering, and standards from the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers). At GridWeek on Monday, Chu is giving the welcome address and the opening comments, but U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke plans to unveil the road map during his speech Thursday.

NIST says after the report is released Thursday, there will be a public briefing where companies will be able to review it and “learn about next steps.” The public will then have 30 days to comment on the draft report. NIST’s George Arnold, National Coordinator for Smart Grid Interoperability (whom we included in our list of Top 15 Smart Grid Influencers), said the report has input from more than 1,500 stakeholders.

While NIST’s published standards road map will still be a work in progress, it’s an important step for the nascent and rapidly growing market. Spurred by the almost $4 billion allocated from the stimulus package, NIST has been on a race to set some standards before the stimulus funds are allocated (likely mid-October to early November) to help deliver some clarity to the market.

But the difficulty has been that the power grid, and adding digital intelligence to it, is a complex process — potentially 10 times more complicated than that of standards for the computing industry — and the time line to deliver the road map has been condensed because of the stimulus funds. As Steve Widergren, the Smart Grid Interoperability & Standards Coordinator for the Department of Energy, who’s been working on the smart grid standards process since 2001, told us a few months ago, “There’s a level of complexity to this problem that means we need to be rational about what can be done in such a short amount of time.”

For the rest of the standards and the road map launched on Thursday expect more of the same from the first set of standards: NIST looking to the main standards bodies for help and placing an emphasis on security.

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