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NIST Announces Three-Phase Plan for Smart Grid Standards, Paving Way for More Efficient, Reliable Electricity

For Immediate Release: April 13, 2009

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Contact: Mark Bello
301-975-3776

(See also Vice President Biden Outlines Funding for Smart Grid Initiatives (White House release, 4/16/09))

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image copyright Allison Achauer, Shutterstock

GAITHERSBURG, Md. – As part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to moving the nation toward energy independence, the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced today a three-phase plan to expedite development of key standards for a Smart Grid, a nationwide network that uses information technology to deliver electricity efficiently, reliably, and securely. The recently passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) contains investments critical to spurring the Smart Grid development process.

"The Smart Grid will create green jobs and stand as a cornerstone of the national effort to achieve energy independence and curb the emissions changing our climate," NIST Deputy Director Patrick Gallagher said. "We are working with a sense of urgency to expedite the development of standards critical to ensuring a reliable and robust Smart Grid."

On January 8, 2009, in a speech announcing his recovery and reinvestment plan, then President-elect Obama made the transition to the Smart Grid a high priority in his strategy to move the nation toward energy independence. The Department of Energy is the lead agency on the federal Smart Grid effort, and NIST is charged with coordinating the development of standards for the project.

NIST’s three-phase approach will:

  • Further engage utilities, equipment suppliers, consumers, standards developers and other stakeholders to achieve consensus on Smart Grid standards. This process will include a stakeholders’ summit scheduled for May 19-20 in Washington, D.C. By early fall, the process will deliver:
    • the Smart Grid architecture;
    • priorities for interoperability and cybersecurity standards, and an initial set of standards to support implementation; and
    • plans to meet remaining standards needs.
  • Launch a formal partnership to facilitate development of additional standards to address remaining gaps and integrate new technologies.
  • Develop a plan for testing and certification to ensure that Smart Grid equipment and systems conform to standards for security and interoperability.


After issuing the initial set of priorities, standards and action plans in early fall, NIST will initiate the partnership and complete a testing-and-certification plan by the end of the year.

The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 charges NIST with "primary responsibility to coordinate development of a framework that includes protocols and model standards for information management to achieve interoperability of smart grid devices and systems." NIST will combine part of its own appropriation from the Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) with $10 million from the Department of Energy’s ARRA appropriation to carry out these responsibilities.

Interoperability standards are needed to ensure that software and hardware components from different vendors will work together seamlessly, while cybersecurity standards will protect the multi-system network against natural or human-caused disruptions.

NIST recently contracted with the Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. (EPRI) to help the agency develop an interim report on Smart Grid architecture and a standards roadmap. Headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif., EPRI is an independent, nonprofit, noncommercial organization that conducts research and development relating to the generation, delivery and use of electricity.

EPRI also will support consensus-building activities to create an initial slate of Smart Grid standards. By the end of 2009, NIST plans to submit these standards for review and approval by the Federal Energy Regulation Commission, which has jurisdiction over interstate distribution and sales of electric power.

George Arnold, deputy director of NIST’s Technology Services unit and formerly a vice-president at Bell Laboratories, will lead and coordinate NIST’s Smart Grid efforts. Arnold previously served as chairman of the board of the American National Standards Institute, a private, nonprofit organization that coordinates voluntary U.S. standardization and conformity assessment activities.