Advancing International Smart Grid Standards Collaboration


By John McDonald, GE Energy

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) governing board is accelerating progress toward international smart grid interoperability standards collaboration.

The NIST SGIP governing board recently formed an international outreach group to advance and strengthen collaboration with other smart grid standards groups around the world via letters of intent.

In its most recent effort to reach across borders, the international outreach group drafted a letter of intent to the Korea Smart Grid Standardization Forum (KSGSF) with the goal of coordinating SGIP standardization efforts with KSGSF standards development activities.

The letter of intent proposes an approach for enhancing collaboration to help assure that smart grid interoperability standards are applicable across the widest possible range of global applications. 

Korea’s Smart Grid Landscape 

The Korean government has set national targets to increase energy efficiency and reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and smart grid is a key enabler of these targets.

Korea also has implemented policies and regulations to promote the realization of smart grid.

Approved in 2011, the smart grid promotion law provides a framework for sustainable smart grid projects with industry participation, containing a master plan for smart grid development, deployment and commercialization of smart grid technologies.

Korea’s Ministry of Knowledge Economy is responsible for licensing businesses for smart grid and individuals wishing to initiate a business to support smart grid.

The master plan includes the development of national interoperability standards framework and major sector key standards and promoting international standards activities.

The standardization forum has committees related to policy with participation mostly from industry.

The standards coordinator system is managed by the Korean Agency for Technology and Standards (KATS). Korea’s suggested topics for consideration include:

  • The need to understand technical regulations,
  • How standards can have positive and negative effects on competition and international trade, and
  • How global interoperability standards can result in new trade barriers.

The Foundation for Interoperability

The system of systems nature of smart grid requires that standards be developed within overarching frameworks or architectures to ensure the resulting standards incorporate requirements of the larger systems in which they will operate.

In addition, determining the requirements at the intersections of these larger systems is complex.

Robust stakeholder participation, cooperation across standards-developing organizations, partnerships, and information exchange must be used to make the best technology solutions available globally.

To design architecture, however, one must see the big picture because countries are at different places at different times during development.

Looking at use cases (i.e., specific studies of how users interact with the system) reveals gaps in the potential architecture.

Successful smart grid deployment will depend on many suppliers because it involves a wide range of components in integrated solutions. Therefore, the smart grid will enable new opportunities for small and large companies to participate in global markets to support solutions.

The wide range of technologies and solutions that characterize the smart grid translate into the need for many ecosystem partners around specific interfaces.

Interoperability standards carry a great potential to open the global marketplace for small and medium enterprises as smart grid is expected to generate as much as $30 trillion in potential business opportunities during the next two decades, and global standards are the foundation for enabling those opportunities.

Standards technology development, integration and facilitation will encourage global technology transfer and allow for economic development and trade.

The global standards community must expeditiously build upon prior efforts focused on planning and requirements’ definitions to ensure standards development and deployment progress within a coherent architecture.

The Asia-Pacific community is an integral partner in this effort, which will enable smart grid technology to be the catalyst for future development and trade.

It is essential to ensure interoperability of products from multiple vendors because no vendor can build the entire smart grid.

Standards are critical to ensuring interoperability.

If interfaces among facilities are standardized, production costs can be reduced and advanced functions can be implemented easily.

Harmonization and consistency of relevant standards must be achieved to avoid overlap, which requires complementary and cooperative work among standards-developing organizations around the world, particularly the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

Collaborative work and open communication between IEC, which is nation-country membership-based, and IEEE, which is individual membership-based, will result in easy-to-use standards and consequently the acceleration of standardization development.

Finally, testing and certification methods should be developed to expedite the adoption of international smart grid standards in the global market.

Standardizing the Standards

In its letter to the KSGSF, the SGIP governing board identifies needs for collaboration as key to standardizing international smart grid standards, grouped under particular priorities, including:

  • A smart grid architecture and conceptual model. This priority includes the sharing of conceptual models, model domains and definitions, services that are assured in the conceptual model, and roles in the model.
  • Use cases. This priority includes a sharing of descriptions of important applications that require interoperability among systems and technologies and include applications that might be unique or different in Korean systems (e.g., Internet-based customer interfaces, services from transformers to customers, etc.), interfaces for interoperability and the requirements for these interfaces among systems and stakeholders.
  • Cybersecurity. This priority involves sharing information related to security requirements and the impact on interoperability standards. It includes requirements derived from use cases, risk assessments and technologies for security solutions.
  • Compliance. This priority includes sharing information related to testing and certification requirements associated with interoperability standards, such as testing and certification approaches, facilities for testing and certification, and testing and certification programs.

The board also envisions a range of formal and informal communications and practices to facilitate collaboration in the priority areas, such as:

  • Sharing and reviewing information and documents and providing feedback to enhance consistency in standardization efforts.
  • Encouraging participation in conferences and meetings where information regarding standards development and activity can be shared and discussed.
  • Establishing joint workshops when the need for coordinating standards efforts in particular areas is identified.
  • Establishing a joint committee with representation from both organizations to oversee and prioritize specific areas for collaboration, to identify and schedule specific activities, and to track progress.

Transcending Trade Barriers to International Standards

Developing and deploying the smart grid are bigger challenges than one economy can meet.

Breaking down international trade barriers that can hinder smart grid interoperability standards is essential for success and will further promote international trade and investment.

A panel of trade officials, regulators and private sector stakeholders brought together by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Regulatory Cooperation Advancement Mechanism on Trade-Related Standards and Technical Regulations (ARCAM) issued three recommendations to help APEC and its member economies prevent and overcome international trade barriers.

First, they’d like greater transparency of smart grid standards development programs at national and international levels, which will provide greater collaboration on standards development.

Second, they’d like domestic coordination among regulatory authorities, standards bodies and trade officials.

That coordination will increase understanding of the larger trade and investment impact of regulations and policies and will open information channels on international standards activities that can help national authorities meet regulatory and policy objectives.

Finally, they believe that using and participating in the development of international standards can enhance the development of global technological solutions, global product markets and competitive opportunities for small and large companies across all APEC member economies.

The NIST SGIP governing board international outreach group also is pursuing collaborative opportunities with smart grid standards organizations in other parts of the world, including possible agreements with organizations in Europe, Japan and China.

The board is considering a draft letter of intent, which was developed following meetings and discussions with members of the Joint Working Group on standards for Smart Grids in Europe, a group established by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), European Committee for Standardization (CEN), and European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC).

Technical standards can accelerate innovation and investment in emerging technologies such as smart grid, provided those standards are developed in an open, consensus-based fashion.

Harmonized standards can open global markets and create economies of scale for nations and technology developers alike.

International collaboration to develop harmonized technical standards is the essential first step in ensuring smart grid interoperability around the world.

John D. McDonald, P.E., is director, technical strategy and policy development for GE Energy’s Digital Energy business. He has 37 years of experience in the electric utility industry and is responsible for setting and driving the vision that integrates GE’s standards participation.

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