The World for Electrical Standards is Flat

The World for Electrical Standards is Flat

Due to time constraints at the EE Global Conference on May 20th, Evan Gaddis had to truncate his remarks.  Included below is the full text of his speech:

The World is Flat

Evan R. Gaddis address to the EE Global Conference

May 20, 2013


Thank you.  It’s an honor to be part of this panel and to have the opportunity to address this distinguished audience today.  I want to start out by thanking EE Global for the invitation and give a nod to the sponsors who’ve helped to make this a first class event.

I’ll give you 90 seconds about NEMA to provide a little context for my participation:

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association is the international leader in the development and promotion of standards and solutions that drive innovation, efficiency and safety throughout the electrical industry and the energy economy.  For more than 80 years, NEMA has been the preeminent source of expertise about how electrical products can reduce energy use and costs, promote economic growth provide consumer comfort and contribute to our nation’s energy security.

NEMA is also an ANSI accredited Standards Development Organization, or SDO.  Our primary mission is to address the U.S. domestic market for electrical standards, but we also have a strong international interest in standards development and harmonization.  We current have over 500 NEMA standards on the books, more than 100 of which are jointly published with international SDOs including IEEE, IEC, and ISO.  We are also a co-founder of CANENA, a standards harmonization body for North America that publishes 72 of those international standards with our partners in Canada and Mexico.

We have just over 400 member companies across nine divisions that focus on areas like wiring devices, lighting, building systems, power equipment and medical imaging, to name a few.  NEMA currently staffs the leadership in 56 IEC Technical Advisory Groups (TAGs), 6 ISO TAGs, and we hold 5 international secretariats.  My staff hosts in excess of 1,100 standards meetings each year, and we participates in more than 300 committees of other organizations on an annual basis.  In addition to all of that, we host several joint-industry forums on electrical safety with NFPA, the Electrical Safety Foundation International, CSA, UL, and others.

The take away from all of this is that our reach in the standards world is both broad and deep.

I tend to be very direct, so I’ll put the bottom line up front:  the world is flat when it comes to electrical standards.  Hopefully by the time I’m done here today you’ll know what I mean.

The specifications for electrical systems may change when you cross international boundaries, 60 hertz in the U.S. versus 50 hertz in Europe and so on, but the laws of physics don’t change.  Those electrons will do the same thing in the US that they do in Canada, and Mexico, and China, and Europe, and every other place on the planet.

Because of this fact, applications like high-performance buildings, energy efficiency, and demand response are the same everywhere you go.  The same is true for cybersecurity, energy storage, integrating renewables, or any other application associated with the grid.  The standards merely describe the ways that we all try to corral those electrons and SAFELY deliver them to provide those applications to consumers, whether they are commercial, industrial, or residential.

So what is the point of differentiating NEMA’s work with domestic standards from our work in the international space?  The answer is speed to market.

We know from experience in our own industry as well as others that a lack of standards will lead to a confused marketplace of proprietary solutions that have absolutely no interoperability.  That won’t work, especially if you’re trying to build a “smart grid.”

Here’s a perfect example of why speed to market is important.

In 2009, a number of state regulators were talking about stopping all smart meter deployments because of an expectation that NIST was going to identify the standards for the Smart Grid.  The regulators’ concern was that smart meters were being deployed and that the underlying standards could change based on what NIST came up with as part of their responsibilities under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.  To the regulators, this implied that the utility companies would have to rip out their existing meters and replace them long before the meter’s service life was over.

Because NEMA was named in EISA to work with NIST, and because we publish the ANSI smart meter standards, George Arnold, the national coordinator for smart grid at the time, and Gary Locke, the secretary of commerce came to us and asked if we could provide a market-based solution to the smart meter problem.  NEMA convened a working group and in 90 days, we published a meter upgrade standard under the NEMA label.  I’m sure a number of people in the audience have been involved in standards writing – raise your hand if you’ve ever published a standard in 90 days.

The NEMA Smart Meter Upgradeability standard was the first standard written from the ground up for Smart Grid, and we did it in 90 days.  Most importantly, the regulators recognized that with this standard in place, as long as smart meters could be built as we specified they could allow the utilities to go ahead with their deployments.  Because the NEMA membership was nimble enough to act quickly, there was no disruption in smart meter deployments and utility companies and the American consumer were able to enjoy the efficiencies and benefits that smart meters brought to their local grid operations.

Once NEMA published the smart meter upgrade standard, we shared it with ANSI, who is currently working it into their C12 suite for smart meters.  More recently, we introduced it to the IEC who is considering it to be part of their metering standards as well.  This is what I mean when I say the world is flat – the process for safely upgrading an electric meter doesn’t really change from one country to the next.  And the fact that we can all operate off the same standard is proof of that.

That’s my only narrative for today, so I’ll share a couple of additional thoughts about specific standards activities we have going on:

  1. Standards can’t deal with the “eachs” anymore.  If you’re thinking about your product or your standard as a standalone device, you’re wrong.  Products connect to other products.  Together they become part of a system, which connect to other systems and eventually deliver the applications I mentioned earlier.  We need to think about these things from end-to-end, which is why NEMA is currently finalizing a standard with ANSI to provide interoperable and conformant testing practices.  When a manufacturer shows up at a utility company with a product that’s been through this kind of test, the utility will know that it works.  We may never get to a plug-and-play level on the grid like we have with Internet devices, but if we can shorten the integration of a device from 3 weeks down to 3 days or maybe even 3 hours, we can provide tremendous operational savings to both the utility companies and consumers.
  2. We need efficiency standards.  NEMA has been doing this for years with our NEMA Premium standards for electric motors, transformers, and lighting ballasts.  But to my previous comment, we need efficiency standards at the system level.  Recently we’ve thrown our support behind the ASHRAE BEQ standard which represents a building’s energy quotient.  BEQ measures the real energy performance of a building … you can find out more about it from any member of my staff or the ASHRAE website.  Bike racks and planters are nice and may get you points in other rating systems, but they don’t do squat for your electric bill.  BEQ is the kind of standard we can build incentives around that deliver true performance to commercial building operators.
  3. Carbon.  Some of our neighboring provinces in Canada have carbon regulations and there was a headline last week about the progress, or lack thereof for establishing carbon regulations in Europe.  NEMA just finished a two-year study with MIT to define a methodology for identifying the carbon footprint for manufactured electrical products.  We’re educating our members about this methodology now, but soon we’ll be presenting it to federal agencies, the international community, and the general public.  This is a first-of-its-kind study that was based on MIT’s previous work on the carbon impact of computer systems.  NEMA envisions a future where building designers, architects, and eventually homeowners would be able to make informed decisions about the carbon impacts of the products they choose.

The bottom line for each of these examples is that we, NEMA and its members, couldn’t wait for the global community to come together to decide on these very important issues.  We had to act and are now happy to share that work with the rest of the world.

And finally, I’ve talked a lot about NEMA and our standards but there is another group out there that I’d like to mention, the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel.  The SGIP started out as a working group under NIST and provided a way for NIST to get direct input from industry on Smart Grid standards.  A year ago the SGIP incorporated and have now moved out from under NIST as a standalone company.  I’m proud to say that NEMA had a major hand in this and loaned one of my senior staff members to be the full time executive director for SGIP during the startup phase.

Even though their mission centers around standards, SGIP is not an SDO, which means they don’t actually write standards.  That makes them free to choose the best in breed, whether that’s from accredited bodies like NEMA, ANSI, IEEE, IEC, or non-accredited groups like Open ADR or Zigbee.  The SGIP is a forum where the whole world can collaborate and everybody who has an interest in Smart Grid is there.  Right now I think they have 7 or 8 international agreements with their peer organizations in other countries like Brazil, China, Japan, Korea, India, and the EU.

The SGIP uses their membership to identify standards and if necessary, they make recommendations for updates and changes to those standards to support the Smart Grid applications.  On the back end, the membership votes those standards into the SGIP’s Catalog of Standards, so there’s built-in consensus around the appropriateness for their use in Smart Grid.  This is a US-led entity with global membership which is just another example of what I mean when I say the standards world is flat.

Thank you and I look forward to the discussion and your questions a little later on.

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