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Smart Standardization

Coordinated efforts aim toward global principles.

Fortnightly Magazine - November 2010

to standards development, primarily because of the uncommon scope and dimensions of unification that it demands—across the traditional boundaries of technology, geography and organizational operations.

For example, through IEEE’s P2030 Working Group, formed in March 2009, the communications, IT and power industries have sought to define common criteria across their disciplines. Interconnection and intra-facing frameworks and strategies with design definitions are among the P2030’s areas of interest. Having held its most recent full meeting in October, the group is developing a guide that’s intended to be released for sponsor balloting within the IEEE in March 2011 and then revised over the years as the smart grid evolves and new needs become evident.

Instances of cultural variances among the industries represented within the P2030 have revealed themselves. Common terms must be established; for example, “reliability” and “network” typically are defined differently in power engineering than they are in communications and IT. Plus, the usual standards processes are different; in power, standards historically take longer to develop, are refined less often and involve fewer people than in IT and communications.

Unification also is taking place across geographic boundaries in SDOs. The broad-strokes changes that the smart grid is intended to bring about largely are shared among nations. Examples include expanded customer choice in intelligent management of usage; two-way power and communications flow across the global infrastructure; demand data moving upstream to inform power generation planning and operations; and greater integration of renewable energy sources. However, various countries emphasize different issues. The European Union has a smart grid strategy task force to determine where EU members should prioritize investments and focus standardization efforts. Japan recently developed its smart grid strategy, with photovoltaics and storage identified as driving forces in improving its electricity delivery system. Korea is supporting nuclear energy as a way to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and realize an economic opportunity to export nuclear technologies.

A string of imperatives is appearing across all of these geographies, and governments are becoming very proactive about defining their priorities for the smart grid.

In the United States, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has assumed a vital role in this area. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 charged NIST with developing a framework of interoperability standards for the smart grid, and the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act provided $10 million in funding to advance that work. Not only is NIST helping SDOs such as IEEE concentrate their efforts where additional standards work is most critically needed, it also is working to open a channel between SDOs and the public utility commissions, where tariffing decisions will be instrumental in helping utilities recoup their investments in standards-based technologies.

In this way, a circular relationship is forming among government, industry and standards communities. The better coordinated that SDOs are in ensuring that the diverse priorities are sufficiently addressed, the more quickly and fully humanity will realize the smart grid’s revolutionary benefits.

Coordination among SDOs

It can be said that the smart grid now is entering a third evolutionary stage.

Discussion of a smart grid is