Streamlining the Smart Grid – the Key to Helping States Meet Renewable Energy Goals?


A recent USA Today report on (many) states’ failure to meet their renewable energy goals highlights a number of issues, one of which being the value of setting standards for a national clean energy infrastructure (“smart grid”). Without such standards, the likelihood of energy inefficiency is greater and the risk of investing in green technology higher, and people are more likely to hold off on greening their operations. The implementation of a “Smart Grid interoperability” plan, which Commerce Secretary Gary Locke introduced September 24th, could make the difference.

According to a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) press release, the plan, entitled NIST Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability Standards, Release 1.0, is the renewable energy equivalent of an architectural blueprint. It provides a detailed conceptual model of the nation’s smart grid, thereby putting everyone on the same page before moving forward with smart grid development. For example, the framework identifies the interconnected components of the smart grid (including utility companies, electric devices, and individual homes) and delineates approximately 80 initial standards designed to improve these components’ interoperability and efficiency. It also urges several immediate actions (for example, filling important gaps in the grid and bolstering the grid’s cyber security).

The draft standards proposal will undergo a 30-day public review period (from its release), after which NIST will finalize and publicize the document. Next, the framework will undergo a period of private-public partnership. Finally, NIST will develop and implement a method of testing and certifying its processes (it reportedly plans to complete this step in 2010).

Once it is established, the framework could help “transform the U.S. power distribution system into a secure, more efficient, and environmentally friendly smart grid and create clean-energy jobs,” Locke reportedly said.

Sarah Harper is a professional writer based in San Francisco, California. Her interests include sustainability, government policy, and international politics. In her free time, Sarah enjoys toying with the idea of holistic health, overanalysis, and plotting world exploration.

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