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Locke, Chu Announce Significant Steps in Smart Grid Development

Commerce Secretary Locke and Energy Secretary Chu have announced the first set of NIST-recognized standards needed for interoperability and security of a planned nationwide “smart” electric power grid—a system that would allow electricity users to connect directly with power suppliers via real-time, two-way communication technologies

On May 18, 2009, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced significant progress that will help expedite development of a nationwide “smart” electric power grid.

A Smart Grid would replace the current, outdated system and employ real-time, two-way communication technologies to allow users to connect directly with power suppliers. The development of the grid will create jobs and spur the development of innovative products that can be exported. Once implemented, the Smart Grid is expected to save consumers money and reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil by improving efficiency and spurring the use of renewable energy sources.

Before it can be constructed, however, there needs to be agreement on standards for the devices that will connect the grid.

After chairing a meeting of industry leaders at the White House, Locke and Chu announced the first set of standards that are needed for the interoperability and security of the Smart Grid and $10 million in Recovery Act funds provided by the Energy Department to the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to support the development of interoperability standards.

Secretary Chu also announced that, based on feedback from the public and Smart Grid stakeholders, the Department of Energy (DOE) is increasing the maximum award available under the Recovery Act for Smart Grid programs. The maximum award available under the Smart Grid Investment Grant Program will be increased from $20 million to $200 million, and the maximum award for the Smart Grid Demonstration Projects will be increased from $40 million to $100 million. In making awards, DOE will ensure that funding is provided to small projects as well as end-to-end larger projects.

“President Obama has made a smart electrical grid a key element of his plan to lower energy costs for consumers, achieve energy independence and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Secretary Locke said. “Today, we took a significant step toward developing the standards necessary to realize the Smart Grid vision.”

“The Smart Grid is an urgent national priority that requires all levels of government as well as industry to cooperate,” Secretary Chu said. “I'm pleased that industry leaders stepped forward today and are working with us to get consensus. We still have much to do, but the ultimate result will be a much more efficient, flexible power grid and the opportunity to dramatically increase our use of renewable energy.”

The initial batch of 16 NIST-recognized interoperability standards will help ensure that software and hardware components from different vendors will work together seamlessly while securing the grid against disruptions.

Spanning areas ranging from smart customer meters to distributed power generation components to cybersecurity, the list of standards is based on the consensus expressed by participants in the first public Smart Grid Interoperability Standards Interim Roadmap workshop, held April 28-29 in Reston, Va.

The DOE also announced that the $10 million it received to support the development of interoperability standards under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has been transferred to NIST to help accelerate their efforts to coordinate these critical standards.

Public comments on the initial standards will be accepted for 30 days after their upcoming publication in the Federal Register. The date of publication will be posted on

Comments may be submitted to

The Energy Department is the lead federal agency responsible for Smart Grid development. Creating national standards is a critical part of that process. Coordinating these standards and achieving industry buy-in is the responsibility of the Commerce Department. This meeting is part of an aggressive three-phase plan recently launched by the Commerce Department to expedite standards development.

Mark Bello | Newswise Science News
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