By the National Institute of Standards and Technology
A 21st century clean energy economy demands a 21st century electric grid. Much of the traditional electricity infrastructure has changed little from the design and form of the electric grid as envisioned by Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse at the end of the 19th century.
Congress and the Obama administration have outlined a vision for the smart grid and have laid the policy foundation upon which it is being built. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 made it the policy of the U.S. to modernize the nation’s electricity transmission and distribution system to create a smart electric grid.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 accelerated the development of smart grid technologies, investing $4.5 billion for electricity delivery and energy reliability activities to modernize the electric grid and implement demonstration and deployment programs (as authorized under Title XIII of EISA).
President Obama, in his State of the Union Address, reiterated his vision for a clean energy economy, and he underscored the administration’s commitment in the “Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future.” In June 2011, the White House released a report by the Cabinet- level National Science and Technology Council titled “A Policy Framework for the 21st Century Grid: Enabling Our Secure Energy Future.”
The critical role of standards for the smart grid is spelled out in EISA and in the June 2011 NSTC report, which advocates the development and adoption of standards to ensure that today’s investments in the smart grid remain valuable in the future; to catalyze innovations; to support consumer choice; to create economies of scale to reduce costs; to highlight best practices; and to open global markets for smart grid devices and systems.
There is an urgent need to establish smart grid standards and protocols. Some smart grid devices, such as smart meters, are being widely deployed. Installation of synchrophasors, sensors that provide real-time assessments of power system health to provide system operators with better information for averting disastrous outages, has accelerated rapidly.
By 2013, it is expected that about 1,000 of these devices will monitor conditions on the power grid, a dramatic increase since January 2009. In late October 2009, President Obama announced 100 Smart Grid Investment Grant Program awards totaling $3.4 billion.
This federal investment leveraged an additional $4.7 billion in commitments from private companies, utilities, cities, and other partners that are forging ahead with plans to install smart grid technologies and enable an array of efficiency-maximizing and performance-optimizing applications. At the end of 2009, the number of smart grid projects in the U.S. exceeded 130 projects spread across 44 states and two territories.
Federal loan guarantees for commercial renewable energy generation projects, growing venture capital investments in smart grid technologies, and other incentives and investments provide additional impetus to accelerate the nationwide transition to the smart grid. However, given that investments are ongoing and ramping up rapidly, standards adopted or developed in support of this transition must fully reckon with the need for backward compatibility with deployed technologies.
A recent forecast projects that the U.S. market for smart grid-related equipment, devices, information and communication technologies, and other hardware, software and services will double between 2009 and 2014 — to nearly $43 billion. Over the same time span, the global market is projected to grow to more than $171 billion, an increase of almost 150 percent.
In the absence of standards, there is a risk that the diverse smart grid technologies that are the objects of these mounting investments will become prematurely obsolete or, worse, be implemented without adequate security measures. Lack of standards may also impede future innovation and the realization of promising applications, such as smart appliances that are responsive to price and demand response signals.
Development of a standard, however, is not a one-time project. Once initially developed, they are reviewed and revised periodically in a continual process of maturing. The standards contained in the NIST Framework are in various stages of maturity. The activities of the SGIP also support this continuous development to improve the standards.
Moreover, standards enable economies of scale and scope that help to create competitive markets in which vendors compete on the basis of a combination of price and quality.
Market competition promotes faster diffusion of smart grid technologies and realization of customer benefits. A recent report summarizing a number of consumer studies found that “concern over climate change, energy security, and global competitiveness have made more consumers receptive to learning about energy.” Among the potential benefits of the smart grid, consumers saw three as being “best benefits”: Detecting power outages, reducing brownouts or voltage sags and integrating renewable energy sources.
Another national survey indicated that most U.S. consumers are favorably disposed toward anticipated household-level benefits made possible by smart grid technologies and capabilities. Three-fourths of those surveyed said, they are “likely to change their energy use in order to save money on their utility bills if they were given new technology solutions.” A similar percentage said, they “would like their utility to help them reduce energy consumption.”
Another survey noted that customers wanted: Lights that turn off automatically when they leave the room, thermostats that automatically adjust for savings when nobody is home, information about which devices are using the most electricity and recommendations for saving energy and money.
To carry out its EISA-assigned responsibilities, NIST devised a three-phase plan to rapidly identify an initial set of standards, while providing a robust process for continued development and implementation of standards as needs and opportunities arise and as technology advances.
“- (Phase 1): Engage stakeholders in a participatory public process to identify applicable standards and requirements, gaps in currently available standards, and priorities for additional standardization activities. With the support of outside technical experts working under contract, NIST compiled and incorporated stakeholder inputs from three public workshops, as well as technical contributions from technical working groups and a Cybersecurity Working Group (CSWG, originally named the Cybersecurity Coordination Task Group, or CSCTG), into the NIST-coordinated standards roadmapping effort.
“- (Phase 2): Establish a Smart Grid Interoperability Panel forum to drive longer-term progress. A representative, reliable, and responsive organizational forum is needed to sustain continued development of the framework of interoperability standards. On November 19, 2009, a Smart Grid Interoperability Panel was launched to serve this function and has now grown to over 675 organizations comprising over 1,790 members.
“- (Phase 3): Develop and implement a framework for conformity testing and certification. Testing and certification of how standards are implemented in smart grid devices, systems, and processes are essential to ensure interoperability and security under realistic operating conditions. NIST, in consultation with stakeholders, initiated and completed two major efforts in 2010: (1) performed an assessment of existing smart grid standards testing programs; and (2) provided high-level guidance for the development of a testing and certification framework. A permanent Smart Grid Testing and Certification Committee was established within the SGIP. The SGTCC has assumed the responsibility for constructing an operational framework, as well as the action plans for development of documentation and associated artifacts supporting testing and certification programs that support smart grid interoperability.