georgearnold_pic.jpgAlthough the term “smart grid” has recently become vogue, the phrase is everyday lingo to many at the National Institute of Standards (“NIST”). In 2009, NIST launched a plan to expedite the development of smart grid interoperability standards. Recently FERC issued an order regarding five families of standards up for consideration. Today, I am honored to discuss FERC’s order with George Arnold, the national coordinator for smart grid interoperability at NIST.

Evers: George, I’d like to join in with the hundreds of others and personally thank you for your leadership and hard work towards helping to make the smart grid a reality. George, the FERC order is certainly complementary of NIST and the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (“SGIP”), of which I am a member. However, the order declines to institute a rulemaking process to adopt the five families of standards. What is your reaction to the order?

Arnold: NIST supports the Commission’s order. It is consistent with NIST’s public comments to the Commission that it can send appropriate signals to the marketplace by recommending use of the NIST Framework and that it would be impractical and unnecessary for the Commission to adopt individual interoperability standards.

Additionally, NIST is pleased that FERC supports the NIST interoperability framework process, including the work done by the SGIP, for development of smart grid interoperability standards. As the Commission’s order reaffirms, the NIST Framework is comprehensive and represents the best vehicle for developing standards for the smart grid. NIST appreciates FERC’s guidance encouraging stakeholders to actively participate and look to the NIST-coordinated process for guidance on smart grid standards.

Evers: What happens now to the five families of standards? 

Arnold: They are already widely used in industry, either in their entirety or their constituent parts. The work on these and many other standards continues. I have said all along, the standards continue to evolve. These standards are among the 83 others making their way through the SGIP process.

Evers: Thanks George. Please take a moment to explain interoperability and the SGIP.

Arnold: Interoperability is the capability of different systems and devices to communicate and operate effectively with one another without significant manufacturer or user intervention. Devices that are fully interoperable are often described as having “plug and play” characteristics: i.e., connect them and they work together. This is important because interoperability impacts customer satisfaction, reliability, life cycle cost, and regulatory compliance.

NIST initiated the SGIP to support NIST in fulfilling its responsibility, under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, to coordinate standards development for the Smart Grid. Established in late 2009, the SGIP is a public/private partnership that defines requirements for essential communication protocols and other common specifications and coordinates development of these standards by collaborating organizations.

The SGIP is composed of over 670 member organizations representing 22 stakeholder categories, including federal agencies as well as state and local regulators. More than 1,700 individuals are participating in SGIP activities. Membership is free and open to all organizations interested in achieving the Smart Grid vision.

Evers: George, I really appreciate your time. I hope your explanation encourages others to get involved in this important work  by joining the SGIP.