Later this year, NIST expects to release a draft of the Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability Standards (“Framework”) document for a formal 60-day public comment period and the final version of the document is planned for publication in the first half of 2014. However, those attending the SGIP Inaugural Meeting received an advanced look at the new Framework.

NIST says the smart grid will ultimately require hundreds of standards. To prioritize its work, NIST chose to focus on seven key functionalities plus cybersecurity and network communications. Together, they create nine priority areas:

  • Demand response and consumer energy efficiency: Provide mechanisms and incentives for utilities, business, industrial and residential customers to modify energy use during times of peak demand or when power reliability is at risk. Demand response is necessary for optimizing the balance of power supply and demand.
  • Wide-area situational awareness: Utilizes monitoring and display of power-system components and performance across interconnections and over large geographic areas in near real-time. The goals of situational awareness are to understand and ultimately optimize the management of power-network components, behavior and performance, as well as to anticipate, prevent, or respond to problems before disruptions arise. 
  • Distributed Energy Resources (DER): Covers generation and/or electric storage systems that are interconnected with distribution systems, including devices that reside on a customer premise, “behind the meter.” DER systems utilize a wide range of generation and storage technologies such as renewable energy, combined heat and power generators (CHP), fixed battery storage and electric vehicles with bi-directional chargers. 
  • Energy Storage: Means of storing energy, directly or indirectly. The most common bulk energy storage technology used today is pumped hydroelectric storage technology. New storage capabilities — especially for distributed storage — would benefit the entire grid, from generation to end use.
  • Electric transportation: Refers primarily to enabling large-scale integration of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs). Electric transportation could significantly reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, increase use of renewable sources of energy, provide electric energy storage to ameliorate peak-load demands, and dramatically reduce the nation’s carbon footprint. 
  • Network communications: Refers to a variety of public and private communication networks, both wired and wireless, that will be used for smart grid domains and subdomains. An interface is a point where two systems need to exchange data with each other. Effective communication and coordination occurs when each of the systems understand and can respond to the data provided by the other system, even if the internal workings of the system are quite different.
  • Advanced metering infrastructure (AMI): Provides near real-time monitoring of power usage. AMI consists of the communications hardware and software, and the associated system and data management software, that together create a two-way network between advanced meters and utility business systems, enabling collection and distribution of information to customers and other parties, such as the competitive retail supplier or the utility itself. 
  • Distribution grid management: Focuses on maximizing performance of feeders, transformers and other components of networked distribution systems and integrating them with transmission systems and customer operations. As smart grid capabilities such as AMI and demand response are developed, and as large numbers of distributed energy resources and PEVs are deployed, the automation of distribution systems becomes increasingly more important to the efficient and reliable operation of the overall power system.
  • Cybersecurity: Encompasses measures to ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the electronic information communication systems and the control systems necessary for the management, operation and protection of the smart grid’s energy, information technology and telecommunications infrastructures.

Given the importance and magnitude of the smart grid, at the most basic level just about everyone you know is a stakeholder. According to NIST, the stakeholder groups who may find Framework 3.0 most useful include:

  • Utilities and suppliers concerned with how best to understand and implement the smart grid (especially Chapters  4, 5 and 6);
  • Testing laboratories and certification organizations (especially Chapter 7);
  • Academia (especially Section 5.1 and Chapter 8); and
  • Regulators (especially Chapters 1, 4, and 6, and also Section 3.5).

With smart grid events being offered almost daily, unless your day job is to attend seminars, a vetting of the agenda and presenters is critical. The Association for Demand Response & Smart Grid, now simply known as ADS, is celebrating its 10th anniversary and lived up to expectations this week with the commencement of its signature event, The National Town Meeting on Demand Response and Smart Grid. With knowledgeable and experienced presenters from the White House to the California Public Utility Commission, the dialog at Wednesday’s meeting highlighted policy, pricing, innovation and barriers. Sitting in the audience, the conversation among attendees was as enlightening as the thought-provoking discussions from the panelists.

During a break, I had a great conversation with Jamison (Jay) Shaver from GE’s Digital Energy business. From light bulbs and appliances for residential customers to a suite of products to help utilities develop an intelligent and resilient distribution grid, GE is smart-grid-poised industry wide. As Jay discussed with me the five core components of the modern grid, he stressed that many of the supporting systems and platforms used by utilities can now be seamlessly integrated, providing better access to outage information across functional areas such as customer service, dispatch and engineering. Having a dashboard ready with various data points should improve the restoration process. According to Digital Energy, here are the five core grid modernization components:

  1. Smart meters and an advanced metering infrastructure (AMI),
  2. Geographic information system (GIS),
  3. Outage management system (OMS),
  4. Distributed management system (DMS) and
  5. Distribution automation (DA) capabilities.

Jay says these core elements work cohesively to help prevent outages. Typically morbid, I learned about the concept of a smart meter “last gasp”: As the power goes out, smart meters transmit important data to the utility, notifying them of the outage and other diagnostics. Such vital information improves restoration efforts. Knowledge is power.

In the past, customer education typically meant nothing more than a bill insert and perhaps an additional public notice. Then came the smart grid and suddenly more is required… much more. Ameren Illinois conducted a quantitative study to measure its customers’ baseline awareness about AMI. Key findings revealed:

  • 63% of customers have heard the term “smart grid.”
    Among the 63% hearing the term:
    • 40% don’t know much about what it means
    • 34% have a favorable impression
    • 29% are neutral
    • 16% have an unfavorable impression
    • 21% don’t know
  • 45% of customers have heard the term “smart meter.”
    Among the 45% hearing the term:
    • 25% of those who have heard the term don’t know much about what it means
    • 35% have a favorable impression
    • 28% are neutral
    • 23% have an unfavorable impression
    • 14% don’t know
  • 46% of all customers feel that smart meters would be “mostly an advantage,”
  • 40% seeing the meters as “having no impact,” and
  • 8% as “mostly a disadvantage.”

Customers indicated that improving reliability, bill accuracy and customer service and providing them with more control of home energy usage as the top smart meter benefits. The study will help guide the development of Ameren’s stakeholder and customer education plan. You can learn more about Ameren’s plan and ComEd’s plan by reading their Annual AMI Reports filed with the Illinois Commerce Commission on April 1, 2013. Ameren and ComEd also filed jobs creation reports as a result of the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act.

DOE recently announced the creation of a new working group to focus on customer engagement. The purpose of the working group is to develop a best practices guide in the following areas:

  • Resource Planning
  • Stakeholder Relations
  • Regulatory Communications
  • Research and Metrics
  • Customer Advocacy
  • IT and Technology
  • Marketing Communications
  • Finance

The presentation from the first conference call provides greater details about the important work planned to assist the industry with customer engagement. If you would like to lend your time and expertise, it is not too late to join. The first in-person meeting will be on November 29, 2012 in Washington, D.C. The project is expected to be completed in Spring 2013.

Why another working group? This excerpt from the first presentation explains:

  • The Success of Smart Grid Lies in the Customer’s Hands:
    It is our belief that the overall success of smart grid depends on whether or not customers will take a more proactive role in managing their energy use.
  • Both Utilities and Regulators Alike Are Looking for a Way to Measure the Success of Customer Education Programs:
    Today many utilities are in search of best practices around how to successfully engage the customer. Similarly, regulators are looking for a way to measure successful customer education initiatives.
  • Developing a Model Will Help Solve These Current Market Challenges:
    Our goal is to develop a best practices model around smart grid customer education and engagement, with a focus on how utilities can effectively communicate the deployment and benefits of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI).

The project is managed by SmartEnergy IP.

I recently had the opportunity to interview the Chairman of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, Robert F. Powelson, regarding his views on smart meter opt-outs and other issues affecting Pennsylvania’s energy future. Because I live and practice in Pennsylvania, I may be biased but I think Smart Grid Legal News readers will agree it is refreshing and rare to hear regulators like Chairman Powelson promote smart meters, energy efficiency and other practices that advance our energy future.

Evers: Chairman Powelson, thank you for taking the time to discuss smart meters with me. Why is it important for customers to have smart meters?

Powelson: Act 129 of 2008 has really paved the way for the rollout of smart meters, also referred to as Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), and the implementation of Act 129 continues to benefit Pennsylvania customers. As I see it, smart meter technology is a “win-win” situation for the Commonwealth – both electricity customers and electricity providers alike reap the benefits of advanced meters. 

Smart meters give customers greater control over their energy consumption by allowing them to measure their energy usage, monitor real-time electricity prices, and adjust their consumption and behavior in order to realize significant savings on monthly bills. Customers can even shut down appliances during peak periods or pre-program appliances and devices to operate only at predetermined (and lower cost) timeframes if they so choose.

Similarly, electricity providers also benefit from increased smart meter deployment. The two key concepts here are efficiency and reliability. AMI makes meter reading quicker and more efficient by eliminating the current practice of estimated meter readings. Additionally, with smart meters, utilities have the ability to monitor distribution networks to allow for the immediate detection of irregularities, which leads to drastically reduced response time in addressing outages. 

Finally, smart meters can help reduce both overall electricity use and peak demand use, leading to lower emissions from fossil power plants that will not have to generate as much power – a direct environmental benefit.

Evers: Chairman, across the country several states have implemented an opt-out process due to customers concerns about health and privacy. I am concerned about the impact of an opt-out process as people relocate in and out of homes with smart meters. I call it a smart meter mosaic. I joke that real estate disclosure forms will soon have to start indicating the home’s level of smartness. Seriously, I think the implementation and long-term management of such a process could eventually put upward pressure on rates for everyone. What are your views regarding a smart meter opt-out process?

Powelson: In May, I testified before the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Consumer Affairs Committee on a proposal to partially repeal Act 129 and permit smart meter “opt-out” programs in the Commonwealth. My testimony addressed two pieces of legislation – House Bill 2186, which would allow consumers to opt out of having smart meters installed at their premises, and House Bill 2188, which would require consumer consent in order to share information from electric meters with government agencies. These bills represent a significant step backward in policy, with the potential to negate all of the reductions already achieved under Act 129.

The proliferation of opt-out requirements for AMI deployment has the potential to cripple efforts to modernize grid technology. Maine has received a lot of attention regarding its AMI opt-out, and Central Maine Power (CMP) has considered, analyzed and provided substantial cost information relating to a variety of potential solutions or mitigation measures for customers seeking to opt out of CMP’s Smart Meter Program. CMP estimates these incremental infrastructure and support costs to be as high as $70 million over the life of the AMI project – and that is assuming only 1 to 2 percent of CMP customers opt out. At an opt-out level of 10 percent, these incremental costs grow to hundreds of millions of dollars – exceeding the costs of CMP’s advanced meter project.

While I appreciate that there are consumers who have security and privacy concerns with respect to AMI, the PUC, legislature, and Electric Distribution Companies (EDCs) may be able to help alleviate these concerns through increased education and outreach. It is worth noting that many EDCs and their customers have had AMI in place for years, namely PPL and PECO. Additionally, we are already facilitating the continued implementation of smart grid technology by establishing rules that more precisely address conduct in the areas of reliability, privacy and security. California and Ontario have undertaken similar efforts through a “Privacy by Design” rulebook, which was integral to customer support for advanced meter roll out.

In sum, opt-outs cause operational gaps that will lead to additional costs for companies and their customers, defeating the stated purposes of Act 129. Such a system reduces reliability for all customers, as well as the benefits of a completely modernized electric grid. Simply put, there is no compelling reason for an “opt-out” program.

Evers: Smart meters have received a lot of attention but there is so much more to the concept of smart grid. Beyond smart meters, what do you see as other benefits as utilities upgrade their systems?

Powelson: Nationally, billions of dollars are being invested in smart grid technology because of the many benefits to consumers and utilities, as well as the positive impact on the environment through increased energy efficiency. (By way of background, federal support for the development of smart meter systems began with the Energy Policy Act of 2005, was supplemented with passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, and funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 – which set aside $11 billion for the creation of a smart grid.)

For me it is not just about the technology. The most important objective is to better serve the needs of consumers and build stronger, more vibrant communities in which to live, work, and play. Smart meter and smart grid programs will be much more efficient in delivering electricity to homes and businesses; responding to outages and other emergencies; monitoring and seeking to curtail usage, especially during peak periods; preventing theft and fraud; and helping electric customers save dollars on their monthly bill. In short, the benefits to Pennsylvanians will continue to grow.

Evers: Recently many utilities have partnered with Opower and Facebook to allow customers to form teams for energy saving contests and compare energy usage with friends, hopefully creating positive peer pressure. Why are innovations like this important to our energy future?

Powelson: Any method of educating consumers and raising consumer awareness is vital. The real benefits will come when people start to realize that we are all in this together, and everyone contributing a little adds up to significant decreases in demand, which then puts a downward pressure on prices.

I particularly like this idea of comparing energy usage with neighbors and friends, as it dovetails nicely with the idea of “competition” in Pennsylvania’s electricity market. The more customers learn about competitive electricity providers, and the benefits and potential price savings available in the marketplace, the better. Increased dialogue that leads to decreased energy usage is exactly what we are looking for under Act 129.

Evers: Are there any other thoughts regarding Pennsylvania’s energy future you would like to share?

Powelson: Pennsylvania has really embraced a two-pronged approach in considering its energy future. On one hand, we are doing all that we can as regulators, providers, and consumers to comply with Act 129 and become more energy efficient. On the other hand, we are strengthening Pennsylvania’s competitive marketplace to increase competition among electric generation suppliers and produce better pricing and greater savings for the Commonwealth’s 5.6 million electric customers.

In addition to fulfilling its regulatory and oversight responsibilities, the Pennsylvania PUC will continue to educate consumers on the benefits of both energy efficiency and conservation, including smart meter technology, as well the advantages of shopping with competitive suppliers for their electric generation.

The Smart Grid Research Consortium has created a smart grid test that scores utilities in six categories:

  • AMI/DA Investment/Planning Scope
  • Customer Engagement Investment/Planning Scope
  • Other Financial Items
  • Utility Customer Detail
  • Investment Analysis Quantitative Framework and
  • Ease of Use/User Interface/Results Presentation

The questions are designed to provide utilities with guidance when making smart grid investments. I think the Smart Grid Investment Quotient Scorecard is a tool that regulators will also find helpful. The Scorecard is designed to reflect current, past or future investment analysis. The figure below shows a section of the scorecard that addresses customer engagement.


II. Customer Engagement* Investment/Planning Scope

(Maximum Category Points: 20)

Does your investment analysis/planning process:


a. Consider reductions in power costs (purchased and/or generated) associated with customer engagement technologies and programs? If yes, add 5 points.

b. Consider financial benefits of deferred capital investments associated with customer engagement technologies and programs? If yes, add 3 points.

c. Use information on your utility’s customer class/end-use (e.g., residential AC) hourly loads (rather than generic estimates) to model peak period hourly load impacts over the planning horizon? If yes, add 10 points.

d. Reflect changes in future hourly loads over the planning horizon as a result of changes in customer counts, equipment saturations and efficiencies and other factors? If yes, add 2 points.

*Includes PCTs, monitors, pricing, information programs, etc.

Snapshot taken from Score Your Smart Grid IQ (Investment Quotient) pg. 2


If your plan does not include distribution automation, the highest grade you can receive is a B. I think that is appropriate given that many in the industry have been saying: The Smart Grid is more than Smart Meters! This Scorecard adequately demonstrates that point.

Last week the Mid-Atlantic Conference of Regulatory Utilities Commissioners held its annual education conference in Hershey, PA. Over the course of several days many topics of interest to the utility industry were discussed, though not all were smart grid related. On the last day, a panel titled “AMI Implementation – Making it Work for Consumers,” lead by DC PSC Commissioner Lori Murphy Lee, grabbed my attention. Chairman David Armstrong of the Kentucky PSC told us about a guidance document issued by his agency as well as the creation of a smart grid roadmap being developed by the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville. Delaware Commissioner Joann Conaway and moderator/panelist Commissioner Lori Murphy Lee described the process and progress made to-date regarding smart meters in their respective jurisdictions. All agreed that consumer education is of vital importance.

I am sure it was not intended to be a debate on the merits of smart meters, but let’s just say the discussion got lively as Itron’s Dan Pfeiffer’s comments followed New Jersey Consumer Advocate Stefanie Brand’s statement. Stefanie made it clear that in her view, advanced metering infrastructure (“AMI”) also commonly referred to as “smart meters,” are not so smart and in New Jersey have not been shown to be cost-effective. As a result, New Jersey is not deploying smart meters at this time. To garner her support, AMI programs should be voluntary and ideally provide consumers rate reductions that are greater than the cost of the meter. “Outage protection and remote shut-off is not enough,” explained Brand.

Smart meters provide information but do not do anything. You have to do the work.  ~Stefanie Brand

Dan Pfeiffer followed-up with discussion about how smart meters provide customers with options. He also highlighted that an essential group is often left out of the smart meter benefits discussion – customers! Just like in other industries, some of the most valued benefits will come from the customers themselves. When given the opportunity, customers will optimize the benefits of smart meters in ways some of us have not yet anticipated.

Dan and Stefanie bantered back and forth a bit and at some point I got confused when Stefanie said, “Some customers think the smart meters will feed their cats!” Huh? Did I hear that correctly? She said it again. I did hear correctly! My immediate thought, “Can this cat feeding meter be programmed to also cook dinner for my family?”

Heading back to reality, Stefanie’s point was that some customers expect more than the meters are capable of doing and that customers need to know that action is required on their part to receive the benefits of the smart meters. In the end, it was unanimous: Educate customers! Educate customers! Educate customers!

On May 19, 2011, after taking into consideration all public correspondence and filings, the Maine Public Utilities Commission issued a Part 1 Order requiring Central Maine Power to implement an opt out program. What is interesting about the order is that it seems to go beyond addressing the RF issues and requires more than what is necessary to comfort those customers with smart meter health concerns. As stated in its press release, CMP will provide residential and small commercial customers with four choices:

  1. the default smart meter which will become the standard meter in CMP territory;
  2. the ability to select a smart meter with the transmitter-off;
  3. the ability to keep the customer’s existing analog meter; or,
  4. the ability to move the new smart meters elsewhere on their property at the customer’s expense.

This decision seems to be a long way from the Commission’s order in February 2010 where the Commission approved this very same CMP AMI program  that is now the subject of an opt out order that not only provides for the transmitter to be off, but even requires CMP to keep in use analog meters. In February 2010, the Commission stated that CMP’s AMI program would, “improve customer service, enhance storm restoration efforts, reduce utility operational costs, save ratepayer and utility costs, and ultimately provide customers with necessary tools to use electricity more efficiently.”  It will be interesting to see the extent of the anticipated reduction in utility operational costs as CMP maintains the systems and networks to support both analog and smart meters.

In Maine the Commission can issue an order in two parts. The first providing the decision and the latter providing the background, analyses and reasoning underlying the Commission’s decision. I’m looking forward to reading the Part II Order to see if it addresses my questions after reading the Part I Order:

  • What happens when people move? It is possible that customers will relocate within and outside of CMP’s service territory. At some point, radio off customers will move into transmitter on homes or analog metered homes and vice versa.  Who pays for the administrative and operational cost of what will eventually become  an opt-in and opt-out mosaic with two subparts?
  • Can CMP’s customers relocating within Maine but outside of CMP’s service territory expect to have the same opt-out option at their new home?
  • Why have an opt-out option when the FCC and FDA have approved the smart meters for use?
  • Analog? Really? When the analog meters are ready for replacement will CMP be required to purchase analog meters for the chosen few 10 or 15 years down the road? Admittedly, functional yet used meters should be on sale as other utilities abandon analog just like the FCC did with our television transmission.

The costs to customers for the various options will be:

  1. For the electro-mechanical meter option: an initial, one-time charge of $40.00 and a recurring monthly charge of $12.00
  2. For the standard wireless “smart meter” with the NIC operating in receive-only mode: an initial, one-time charge of $20.00 and a recurring monthly charge of $10.50
  3. For any customer that does not enroll in the opt-out program within the 30 period specified above and later chooses to do so: a $25.00 surcharge. CMP may waive the surcharge if it determines there is a sufficient reason for the customer’s failure to notify CMP within the 30-day period

I suggest realtors in Maine begin to prepare new disclosure forms to alert potential buyers to the home’s level of smartness.

We all associate the middle of April with taxes. For utilities in Minnesota, the first of April also means it is time to file Annual Smart Grid Reports. Back in March, the Minnesota PUC issued a notice clarifying the information sought in the reports. Cooperative and municipal utilities were asked to voluntarily file the reports so the Commission can obtain a full assessment of smart grid development in Minnesota. The following topics are discussed:

  • “Smart” functions enabled with existing infrastructure and systems, including what percentage of the utility’s meters are currently mechanical, AMR, or AMI, and commentary on the capability of each
  • Planned or completed system improvements which could affect customer service, power quality, or service quality metrics
  • Current customer access to data, such as usage or outage data, and how that data educates customers and whether or not there is any planned additional customer access to data
  • Time-varying rates and demand response
  • The general costs of completed or planned projects, including the costs of changes to billing systems and, if applicable, the early retirement of meters or other equipment when compared to the benefits realized or expected to be realized

The reports can be found at the Commission’s generic docket on smart grid. The MPUC’s home page has a consumer-friendly smart grid FAQs page. Here is an interesting excerpt:

“Has the MPUC authorized cost recovery for smart grid equipment, such as smart meters/AMI?

The Commission has authorized cost recovery for any type of equipment where the cost is incurred reasonably and prudently, whether or not it is smart grid-related. Utilities have already submitted proposals for projects that could be considered to include smart grid equipment and would be granted cost recovery on a case-by-case basis. There is no single decision where the Commission has stated it will automatically grant cost recovery for smart grid equipment, because the Commission first would review the specific project to ensure costs are reasonable.”

This month FERC released its Demand Response and Advanced Metering survey results. Conducted in 2010, the survey shows advanced metering is up a whopping 85% nationwide (see page 7). We can thank DOE for giving AMI a nice booster shot to the tune of $817 million. This is in addition to the $2.1 billion in grants DOE awarded for smart grid demonstration projects.

According to the assessment, over 500 entities offered some type of demand response program. The combined affect of these programs reduced electric usage to by more than 58,000 megawatts, reducing peak demand by 7.6%. In addition to these wonderful results, the report provides a handy list of acronyms and a glossary that will be helpful to those new to the industry.