The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, has contracted the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to help it develop an interim road map to harmonize interoperability standards for the smart grid.

Under the $1.3 million contract, EPRI will develop the road map to ensure that different vendors’ products will work together effectively and that consensus standards drive down the cost of components and systems, reduce the risk of early obsolescence, and spur innovation.

Scheduled to be completed by early summer, the interim road map will inventory existing standards, identify gaps, and list priorities for reconciling differences among current standards or developing entirely new ones. It will have “consensus support of utility industry, independent system operators, manufacturers, standards development organizations, state regulators and consumer representatives,” EPRI said in a statement last week.

“EPRI is in a unique position to launch this effort quickly and efficiently because our research and development programs have been focusing on a number of key aspects of the Smart Grid,” said Arshad Mansoor, vice president of EPRI’s Power Delivery and Utilization sector. “We are already collaborating with many of the key players in smart grid in our R&D, and we understand who must be involved and the direction in which we must move.” 

NIST plans to submit these standards for review and approval by the end of 2009 to the Federal Energy Regulation Commission, which has jurisdiction over interstate distribution and sales of electric power.

The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 assigned NIST “primary responsibility to coordinate development of a framework that includes protocols and model standards for information management to achieve interoperability of smart grid devices and systems.” NIST plans to combine part of its own appropriation from the recent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) with $10 million from the Department of Energy’s ARRA appropriation to carry out these responsibilities.

The road map effort is part of a three-phase NIST Smart Grid program to expedite development of key standards for the smart grid. The approach will now:

• Further engage utilities, equipment suppliers, consumers, standards developers, and other stakeholders to achieve consensus on smart grid standards. This process will include a stakeholders’ summit from May 19–20 in Washington, D.C. NIST plans that by early fall, the process will have delivered the smart grid architecture; priorities for interoperability and cybersecurity standards and an initial set of standards to support implementation; and plans to meet remaining standards needs.
• Launch a formal partnership to facilitate development of additional standards to address remaining gaps and integrate new technologies.
• Develop a plan for testing and certification to ensure that smart grid equipment and systems conform to standards for security and interoperability. NIST anticipates that it will initiate the partnership and complete a testing and certification plan by the end of the year.

Sources: EPRI, NIST