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In a crucial step for the smart grid industry, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released its smart grid standards road map last week, which revealed close to 80 standards that will serve as the building blocks for the nascent industry. OK, cool…so now what? The 90-page plan is actually just a very early step in the smart grid standardization process. Here are five more steps that need to happen to put the industry on the right path.
1. Certification and Testing: Standards on their own aren’t sufficient, explains the road map — “A testing and certification regime is essential.” In other words, after the proper standards are identified, the industry needs to have a process through which hardware and software are proven to be compatible and based on the individual standards.
Certification and testing groups are common in the Internet and telecom industries. For example, the Wi-Fi Alliance certifies Wi-Fi equipment based on the 802.11 standard to make sure that all wireless gear that says it’s using Wi-Fi is actually based on that industry standard. NIST says it has started work on developing an overall framework for testing and
certification and plans to initiate steps toward implementing that framework in 2010. That development process will include looking at the current organizations that already certify and test gear in the energy and IT industries.
2. Public Comment Period: Now that this initial draft of the smart grid standards road map has been released, the public has 30 days to comment on it and the standards still under consideration. While the road map identifies 77 smart grid standards (31 official standards and 46 still under review), the report notes that there will be hundreds of standards that will eventually guide the industry. In particular, some in the industry have been concerned that some of the 46 standards that were placed on the “under consideration” list for the road map are actually very crucial for the industry. But given the hurried pace and condensed time line of the process, we’re expecting the important industry standards to make it onto the official list eventually.
3. How to Make Energy Info Available to Consumers: The report notes that given that public utility commissions in California and Texas are mandating that consumers have access to their energy information by 2010, a standard format and method for displaying and storing this data are needed quickly. A standard to guide energy information, making sure the data is easy to read and access, could potentially help consumers curb their energy consumption habits more effectively. In the road map, NIST declared that an energy information standard is one of the important areas that needs an action plan, and it expects to create a definition for the standard by October 2009 and an initial specification of the standard by January 2010.
4. Smart Grid Security: Because increasing the complexity, the amount of connections, the number of entry points, and the digital intelligence of the power grid can cause more vulnerabilities, NIST has decided to approach security with additional groups and frameworks. NIST has established the Smart Grid Cyber Security Coordination Task Group, which has over 200 members and is responsible for helping create the NISTIR 7,628 Smart Grid Cyber Security Strategy and Requirements, a 200-page document that is supposed to be available before the end of 2009. The document, which will also under go a public comment period, will look at the risks, definitions and strategies to combat smart grid vulnerabilities.
5. Smart Grid Interoperability Standards Panel: The recently published road map is Phase I of NIST’s three-phase smart grid standards plan. Phase II involves creating an interoperability standards panel, which NIST says will be developed before the end of 2009. NIST says the panel will be responsible for delivering “a more permanent process with stakeholder representation to support the ongoing evolution of the Smart Grid Interoperability Framework.” The group will find and work on holes in the standards framework and help keep the standards updated.
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