Where the Standards are

By Kathleen Davis, Senior Editor

Perhaps a throwback to the 1960 Connie Francis flick “Where the Boys Are” is an odd, esoteric way to begin an article about power standards, but the parallels made it bubble to the surface.

Do parallels exist between a teen flick about four girls on the hunt for boys in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and the growing concern over supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) critical infrastructure protection (CIP) and other smart grid areas? As sure as Connie loved Bobby Darin.

It’s all about the hunt. Granted, Francis might have been more successful in her stalking and nabbed her prey more quickly. Her game might have been less bogged down in acronyms, random numbers and repetition than the one in this arena, but both Francis’ cinema journey and the power industry’s search for standards are about finding rights. Francis found her Mr. Right, but can the power industry settle on right standards that are readily agreed on by all?

She knew where the boys are, but can this industry meet in one spot where the standards are?

The Search for Priorities

Standards is a large, encompassing term. It can refer to specifics or generals, down to details and minute details in the power area. It’s best defined as the rules that make technology, companies, government and people able to play nice together within a defined arena. When playing baseball, it helps to know the rules. When hunting for boys in Fort Lauderdale with Francis, it helps to know the rules.

Standards are rules on steroids, rules with teeth.

W. Charlton Adams Jr., president of the IEEE Standards Association, views standards as guidelines “enabling the building and development of a marketplace.”

Those building block standards can be incorporated into policy but do not represent the policy, he said, just as basic social rules make up the larger picture of a cultural more. Standards in the power industry run from frequency to protection, with the smart grid wedged in the middle.

That smart grid framework is the future of standards, said Dick DeBlasio, chairman of IEEE’s P2030 Working Group and chief engineer of renewable electricity end use systems directorate with the National Renewable Energy Lab.

“From the energy and interoperability side, IEEE P2030, which deals with the interoperability of smart grid, is critical to developing necessary body of standards,” DeBlasio said

It’s all about future planning and guidelines to build from, he said.

“We are identifying hundreds of interfaces for the smart grid within communications, IT and power,” DeBlasio said. “Those interfaces, once identified, will provide a multitude of standards development, and hundreds of standards will come out of this effort.”

Within that IEEE body alone, they’ve already started 2030.1 on electric vehicle interconnection and will start 2030.2 on large storage systems.

Adams agreed on the importance of smart grid standards within the power industry now and in the next few years.

“The key is the integration of standards across the multiple technology areas,” Adams said. “This is the gem of smart grid. Standards that relate to and support cross technology platform interoperability will have the biggest impact over the next five years.”

This represents a shift within the IEEE, which traditionally has been to support protocols and interoperability, Adams said. With the smart grid, that emphasis will move toward a more systems-level standard of identifying interfaces and criteria involved in those interfaces.

“The learning process for us was not to identify hardware and protocols and to tackle it from the interface side,” Adams said. “This allows us to use standards as a guideline without violating changing protocols.”

Herb Schrayshuen, vice president and director of standards division for the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), said that the highest impact or high priority areas for standards development in grid development within the next few years will be twofold: (1) system frequency management and system protection, and (2) critical infrastructure protection, which is the main standards push of NERC itself.

“The BAL (resource and demand balancing) category of standards has a number of development projects underway that involve the management of resources to load balancing and, as a result, frequency,” Schrayshuen said. “Additionally, frequency response after disturbance events is another area of high impact and or benefit. With respect to system protection, the maintenance and coordination of protection systems is an area of focus. The PRC (protection and control) area of standards is of high interest.”

What’s Missing, What’s Evolving

If smart grid and reliability standards will be the focus of the standards hunt during the next few years, the question remains whether any area is being left behind, ignored or forgotten.

There remains a need to upgrade transmission and distribution in advanced digital sensors and controls, DeBlasio said. As the grid system moves from archaic to a bright, digital future, a gap remains.

“A critical and key area is timing of controls,” he said. “We’re moving from milliseconds to microseconds, and timing is critical relative to safety and operations.”

Adams said there is a need for work on a larger, federal level–a need for a single place where the standards are.

“From a regulatory and policy side, the country needs national standards,” Adams said. “The only national standard that has been accepted for interconnection is 1547.”

IEEE 1547, the Standard for Interconnecting Distributed Resources with Electric Power Systems, was approved by the IEEE Standards Board in June 2003. It was approved as an American National Standard in October 2003. Grumbling exists because the consensus-based national and global standards take too long to develop, several years in many cases, Adams said. Because most members of development committees are volunteers, that’s quite a commitment. But they are working to expedite the process, he said, even investing in tools. Relative to other processes, the IEEE’s is efficient, he said.

Volunteers often praise the tools and processes involved. Adams credits that to an evolution of structure and culture.

“When we decided to form P2030, it was more profound that just writing a standard,” he said. “We brought a culture comprised of a communications society, a computer society and a power and engineering society together to form a unified and inclusive approach to developing this guide that made technical and organizational sense.”

Having that common ground where the standards’ makers meet has been positive and exciting, Adams said. It’s a process they apply to all standards developments, even with new items to look for, he said.

“At this point we need to focus on policy-driven standards in the retail and wholesale markets,” Adams said.

With that new focus, there will be a transitional period requiring old standards to stay in place past their prime, DeBlasio said. Legacy standards serve as a bridge.

“Transitioning from old to new will be required including these legacy standards in order to wean out the old and bring in the new,” DeBlasio said. “There is definitely a place for legacy standards that are revised to meet contemporary needs. Thus the process will accomplish the need to make way for new standards.”

NERC Specifics

The biggest NERC standard during the past few years has been CIP standards. Those standards are gathered in one NERC spot. While it isn’t as warm as Francis’ trip to Fort Lauderdale, and it isn’t a single spot where all standards gather, that place is a source where reliability standards meet: The NERC Reliability Standards Development Plan.

The plan is the foundation for reliability standards development efforts, Schrayshuen said, and the current one names and prioritizes standards in development and needed from 2011-2013. (A link to the plan is listed at the end of this article; see Figure 1 and Figure 2 for list of prioritized standards for NERC through 2013 and standards development.)


The plan is the three-year blueprint that guides, prioritizes and coordinates revision or retirement of existing standards and the development of new standards, Schrayshuen said.

The plan, however, is just the initial gathering point for reliability standards. In the move from planning to finalizing a standard, it moves through a virtual mechanism that looks at how it works, how well it will work and what the best ways are to make it work: the NERC Reliability Functional Model.

“The model provides the framework for the development and applicability of NERC’s Reliability Standards,” Schrayshuen said.

Rather than an official part of the standard, the model describes a set of functions that ensure the bulk power system’s reliability, Schrayshuen said.

There are places where the standards are, where they meet and rub elbows–at IEEE and on the NERC reliability end of things. It’s the hot spot for NERC-CIP, a set that’s been in a state of updating and revising since their first approval by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Order 706 in early 2008, said Mark Weatherford, NERC vice president and chief security officer.

Weatherford said Version 2 of the CIP standards addressed some low-hanging fruit issues. It was filed with regulators May 22, 2009, and became mandatory and enforceable in the U.S. on April 1. Version 3 became effective Oct. 1. Each version becomes a bit more specific and identifies new details that must be addressed.

“Following that (Version 3) submission, the Standards Drafting Team began work to address the remaining issues in FERC Order No. 706,” Weatherford said. “The drafting team has proposed a departure from the past paradigm of identifying critical assets and critical cyberassets. The revised paradigm categorizes all BES Cyber Systems–a new term, roughly analogous to cyberassets that impact the bulk electric system–high-impact, medium-impact and low-impact.”

The characterization of high, medium or low impact will be based on a process used in a more recent standard, rather than the original risk-based assessment methodology with which NERC started, that also brings in highlights from the NIST Risk Management Framework model.

Too Fast, Too Slow or Just Right?

As NERC, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and associations such as IEEE begin to work together more, cross-apply ideas, thoughts, methodology and results, that single spot where the standards are gets closer to existence, though one expert said to approach with caution and not try to get there too fast.

Ben Koch, managing director in the corporate finance division of SWS Group, spoke briefly about that Francis-esque search for standards in mid-September Autovation 2010 speech in Austin, Texas.

Everyone in the industry is “on the road to a true end-to-end smart grid together,” but we have a few hurdles to overcome, a few red herrings in the romantic path, he said. One of those is emerging standards.

While technology standards are important to get everyone to move forward, the industry should tread lightly and softly, being cautious to prevent a stifling of competition in the marketplace, Koch said. The industry doesn’t want to move so fast toward definite, finalized standards that problems are created that might make organizations and companies mimic that classic Francis tune “Who’s Sorry Now?”

The entities involved in standards development are heeding Koch’s warning. They are working on that hunt for the right standards at pace that looks less like the crazy careening of four teens on a 1960 spring break and more like the quiet, assured path of a driver who knows where she is going and the rules to get there safely.

Adams said that the industry and its users drive standards.

“Industry, from a high-level perspective, establishes needs, priorities and requirements, leveraging an understanding of technology, markets, consumer and governmental needs,” he said. “As long as the industry speaks up and invests in standards supporting the transition of technology to the marketplace, we won’t fall behind.”

Together, the industry is on its way to where the standards are.

NERC site: http://nerc.com

NERC Reliability Standards Development Plan: http://nerc.com/files/2011-2013_RS-Development-Plan.pdf.

IEEE site: http://ieee.org/index.html

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