The governing board of the public-private Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) has voted in favor of a new standard important for two-way data communications between utilities and their customers, bringing the next-generation “smart” electrical power grid a step closer to reality.
The board’s vote concerns a foundational standard for the information used to communicate between utilities and the customer, and the way in which that information is organized. This new “energy usage data model” standard was achieved through completion of Priority Action Plan 10, one of 17 Priority Action Plans (PAPs) established within the SGIP to address critical standards needs in order to realize an energy-efficient, modern power grid with seamlessly interoperable parts.
The data standard was developed by the North American Energy Standards Board (NAESB) at the request of the SGIP and the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and will allow utilities and customers to exchange detailed information about electricity usage in a consistent format. This will enable consumers to track their electricity usage and help them better manage their energy consumption and costs. Developed through NAESB’s American National Standards Institute-accredited process, the model is a ratified NAESB standard and will be included in NAESB’s filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission next month.
“This essential standard establishes the foundational energy usage data structure for the Smart Grid,” said David Wollman, NIST lead on the SGIP team. “It provides the basis for multiple additional standards and resulting applications that will empower consumers to more easily monitor and then modify their energy usage and reduce their costs.”
The recommended standard is also expected to create opportunities for innovation. With utilities now installing “smart” electric meters in millions of homes and business, established companies and start-ups are developing new products and services tailored to the energy-use behaviors and objectives of consumers. Smart-meter technology will enable real-time (or near real-time) communication of energy use, consumption, quality and source, among other information. The standard is "Internet-friendly," and its applications will include enabling customers to view and understand their energy usage and cost using local access devices and over the Internet.
“This vote is a key step as the emerging Smart Grid progresses toward a cost-effective, interoperable system that will accommodate the energy-related devices and services of any vendor who complies with accepted standards,” said SGIP administrator Erich Gunther.
The SGIP, a consensus-based group of public and private organizations, was created in 2009 by NIST to support the agency in its role to coordinate the development of Smart Grid standards. While the SGIP does not develop or write these standards directly, it works with existing standards organizations to coordinate and accelerate the development of standards that respond to needs critical to achieving a nationwide Smart Grid. This vote by the SGIP governing board signifies that its leadership has agreed to recommend the standard as relevant and needed.
Of the dozens of groups of standards that will be necessary to ensure the interoperability of all these new devices, the SGIP identified 17 PAPs to address the most important standards needed for the Smart Grid to function properly. Among these is PAP 10, the third set of PAP standards recommended by the SGIP board following its previous recommendations for PAPs 1 and 11, which concern the use of electric vehicles with the Smart Grid and key network protocols that will provide two-way communication for the grid. The SGIP governing board plans to consider and vote on the results of the remaining priority action plans – some that contain individual standards, others that contain groups of them – as they become available from the SGIP’s internal working groups.
The Smart Grid will be a complete modernization of the U.S. power grid, which distributes electricity to hundreds of millions of consumers. A key aspect of the Smart Grid will be its use of the same information technology that enables two-way communication over the Internet. Without a standardized format for this data, several conflicting approaches could emerge, leading to incompatibilities among energy management products and services that would reduce gains in energy efficiency and impede other anticipated benefits of the Smart Grid.