This is Smart Grid Week in Washington. Not officially, of course, but considering the Smart Grid Leadership Summit held yesterday with Energy Secretary Chu and Commerce Secretary Locke, and today and tomorrow's NIST/EPRI Smart Grid Roadmap Workshops, more light is being shed in this town on modernizing our electricity grid than since the U.S. Capitol Building was first illuminated with electricity in the 1890s.
The Summit included 70 top leaders from manufacturing, electric utilities, software, and telcom companies, as well as state regulators. The goal of the meeting was to demonstrate the administration's determination to move this process forward quickly. Indeed, a look at Chu's and Locke's comments at a post-Summit press conference shows that this administration views accelerating the standards development process as a "national priority." And the administration is willing to push its considerable weight around if anyone throws up obstacles to a timely overhaul. As Locke put it: "In the end, if there is not unanimity, if there is not even strong consensus, we … will make the decisions to get us moving forward as quickly as possible."
The NIST/EPRI workshops — this week's is the second in a series this spring and summer — should help prevent such obstacles by laying out the priority for standards development and who will be responsible for getting them done. By September, NIST expects to publish the final interoperability standards roadmap.
Of course, plenty of questions and challenges still remain. From NEMA's perspective, one key issue is that the development of communications protocols must take into account manufacturers' considerations. Some parties developing these standards believe the easy route would be to have all Smart Grid-related equipment commoditized. But nothing would stifle innovation more. If the administration's ultimate goal is to ensure an increasingly more efficient, effective, secure electrical grid (and it should be), then manufacturers will need incentives to continuously improve their products and systems.
NEMA will provide these and other recommendations to the administration shortly.