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DOE, DOC Release First Set of Smart-Grid Standards

gmimThe U.S. Departments of Energy and Commerce recently announced the first set of standards that are needed to drive the development of a smart electric power grid, and $10 million in Recovery Act funds provided by the DOE to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to support the development of interoperability standards.

A set of standards for the devices that connect the grid is critical to the progress of the smart grid, and to meet President Obama’s plan for a smart electrical grid to lower energy costs for consumers and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to the U.S. commerce secretary Gary Locke and U.S. energy secretary Steven Chu. These standards will allow users to connect directly with their power suppliers using real-time, two-way communications technologies.

The initial set of 16 NIST-recognized interoperability standards — ranging from smart customer meters to distributed power generation components to cyber security — will help ensure that software and hardware components from different vendors will work together seamlessly, while securing the grid against disruptions, according to the energy and commerce secretaries.

The standards are based on the consensus by participants in the first public Smart Grid Interoperability Standards Interim Roadmap workshop, held in April 2009.

Secretary Chu also announced that the DOE is increasing the maximum award available under the Recovery Act for Smart Grid programs. The maximum award available under the Smart Grid Investment Grant Program will be increased from $20 million to $200 million and for the Smart Grid Demonstration Projects from $40 million to $100 million. DOE says this will ensure that funding is provided to a diversity of applications, including small projects as well as end-to-end larger projects.

The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act charged NIST with overseeing work on Smart Grid standards. NIST — with the $10 million in new stimulus funding — recently held a second major workshop to push forward its goal to publish interim Smart Grid standards roadmap by September 2009, reports NEXT 100.

PG&E’s Chris Knudsen, director of the utility’s Technology Innovation Center and involved in standards work relating to smart meter infrastructure, home area networks and automated demand response, said in the NEXT 100 article that NIST brings to the table the ability to “provide focus and minimize fragmentation by putting a common process around this effort.”

Knudsen also said that integrating all the necessary standards, which could number in the thousands, is only the first step. There also needs to be an industry compliance program to make sure the standards are implemented in the same way, he said. “Without a defined set of tests, engineers will do things a little differently and you won’t get plug-and-play interoperability.”

Industry organizations are also working toward a standards-based smart-grid infrastructure. The HomePlug Powerline Alliance recently announced that it has completed its Market Requirements Document (MRD) for the HomePlug Smart Energy specification. Alliance members believe the HomePlug powerline technology will play an increasingly important role in achieving a standards-based smart grid infrastructure that is more efficient and reliable.

The Alliance also said that worldwide standards are critical to widespread adoption. The group believes the MRD will guide the development of new HomePlug specifications to develop powerline communications products that offer lower cost, low power consumption, while also being fully interoperable with the current HomePlug AV standard and the upcoming IEEE 1901 standard.

The HomePlug Powerline Alliance, an industry-led initiative that creates specifications and certification logo programs for using the powerlines for reliable home networking and smart grid applications, said this will allow utilities, electricity meter manufacturers and product manufacturers to future-proof smart-grid networks based on HomePlug/IEEE technology.

Google is poised also to make an impact in the smart-grid industry, along with a number of start-ups that offer home energy monitoring, through Web sites or a small device in the home, reports CNET.

Google has signed on smart-meter manufacturer Itron and eight utilities to offer the company’s PowerMeter Web service for monitoring home energy use, according to CNET.

San Diego Gas & Electric plans to have more than 200,000 Itron smart meters installed this year and have its entire territory of 1.4 million customers covered by the end of 2011, reports CNET.

Google’s home energy-monitoring software relies on meters, or add-on devices, that can communicate usage information back to utilities, and is looking to find more smart-meter vendors and utilities to offer PowerMeter, according to CNET.

Large networking providers also are developing smart-grid technology. Networking equipment giant Cisco, for example, recently outlined its plans for a highly secure smart-grid infrastructure, which will address everything from data centers and substations to neighborhood-area networks to businesses and homes.

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