The smart grid and the slippery business of setting industry standards.
Bruce W. Radford is publisher of Public Utilities Fortnightly.
By the time the curtain fell on the technical conference on smart grid interoperability standards January 31 at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), it was clear that the first five of those standards—a group of standards “families” proposed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and submitted to FERC for review the previous October—were dead in the water.
Beyond that, all was a muddle.
And confusion remained, after utilities, regulators, trade groups, and smart grid contractors and vendors had weighed in on the dozen or more questions that FERC had posed to follow up on problems discovered at the January session. For example, what did Congress intend in section 1305 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), in which it tabbed NIST to develop a framework of protocols and model standards for smart grid devices and systems, and instructed FERC (upon finding a “sufficient consensus”) to adopt those standards, but only “as may be necessary” to assure functionality and interoperability of the smart grid?
At the conference, and again in follow-up comments, utilities and vendors alike urged the commission to go back to square one and define exactly what it would mean for FERC to “adopt” a smart grid standard in a formal rulemaking case.