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NEMA's eiXtra: March 10, 2009
eiXtra: published by NEMA Hot Topics
On the Hill/Around the Nation
International News
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
feature story
Standards Needed to Facilitate Smart Grid Adoption

The Department of Energy will be pushing out $4.5 billion for Smart Grid investments as part of the federal government's economic stimulus plan, but unless Smart Grid standards are developed quickly, the government risks wasting its money on soon-obsolete technologies that could be incompatible with one another, regulators and industry representatives warned Congress.

According to a report filed by Christy van der Merwe in Engineering News Online (March 5, 2009), integrating information technology into the nation's electric grids could enable consumers to monitor and reduce their electric usage and help electric companies locate and respond to power outages, among other benefits, said Fred Butler, a commissioner on the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.

However, Butler told the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources, "If we do not do this correctly, we come in danger of not coming even close to meeting those aspirations."

Committee Chair Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) said government agencies and the private sector "Should be proceeding with (Smart Grid) demonstration projects but at the same time need to be accelerating the standards process."

Successfully integrating interoperable Smart Grid technology into the electric grid will require standards on a number of issues, including security, reliability, data sharing, and privacy. Standards could be developed for a number of other facets of the Smart Grid as well, such as charging standards for electric hybrid vehicles and open architecture standards.

There are so many standards to consider, said Patrick Gallagher, deputy director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), that his organization's primary responsibility is simply prioritizing the order in which standards should be developed.

"What's desperately needed is an overall road map by which we can decide which standards affect regulatory concerns or technical challenges and need to be addressed right away," he said.

NIST is currently developing such a roadmap, Gallagher said, and hopes to have initial drafts of its priorities by this summer. NIST's priorities will not impede private industry from taking the lead in developing standards—so long as they are flexible and technology neutral—Gallagher said. He nevertheless expressed concern that the private sector's interest in moving forward as quickly as possible could make it difficult for all companies and organizations to reach a consensus on standards.

FERC Commissioner Suedeen Kelly said the standards development process should not delay the Smart Grid demonstration projects the stimulus funds are intended for.

"The demonstration project and the funding of it is a real opportunity to advance [Smart Grid development]," she said. "What we anticipate seeing is a real demonstration of the benefits...[Currently,] it's unclear how the interfaces will work with consumers."

However, Evan Gaddis, President and CEO of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, said that the matching funds in the stimulus package should be withheld until standards are in place—standards that his association and other industry groups can develop quickly.

"I realize like everybody else we've got to get jobs going," he said. "If you tell us start writing these standards, we will get them written quickly. If we get grid standards in place before we start building, we will save money."

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Hot Topics

Standards, Consumer Education Needed for "Smart Grid" to Work
In order to effectively create a modernized grid to improve energy efficiency, reliability and renewable energy management, standards and public education will be needed on top of funding, according to the top Republican of the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources.

Smart Grid Stimulus Money Can Be Released Before Standards
Federal regulators said that economic stimulus money for "Smart Grid" energy technology could be released before a comprehensive "road map" of grid standards is completed, so long as the funded projects are created with open, upgradable features.

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On the Hill/Around the Nation

NEMA Accelerates Smart Grid: As policymakers' attention turns to the electricity grid, NEMA has found numerous avenues to guide federal action. The stimulus package’s $4.5 billion for Smart Grid funded many NEMA-advocated programs, including providing DOE and NIST with full budgets for their demonstration, matching fund, and standards framework activities. On March 3rd, NEMA President and CEO Evan Gaddis is scheduled to testify before the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources on how NEMA can accelerate Smart Grid. On March 26 and 27, NEMA and the U.S., Trade and Development Agency will lead a delegation of federal officials, researchers, and NEMA members to Beijing to hold an introductory Smart Grid briefing with Chinese officials. On April 2nd, NEMA companies will showcase the latest grid technologies in the lobby of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

NEMA Promotes Federal Building Upgrades: On the heels of President Obama signing the stimulus package $4.2 billion for facility improvements, a group of NEMA lighting equipment and motor manufacturers briefed three key audiences tasked with making energy efficiency improvements to federal government buildings. Representatives of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and many of the Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) that have federal contracts to perform building upgrades and retrofits heard the NEMA group about key considerations and available options in lighting and motor-driven systems. Separately, NEMA President and CEO Evan Gaddis led a briefing to senior Department of Defense officials responsible for improving energy performance of U.S. Army installations. More briefings for federal agencies are in the works.

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International News

Stimulus Framework Raises Concerns Over Competitiveness of Industries
The framework for South Africa’s response to the international economic crisis, indicated that "rescue packages" will be set up to address vulnerable sectors, such as clothing, textiles and footwear, mining and the auto and capital equipment sectors; however, trade experts have raised concerns over the document’s potential threat to competitiveness in these industries.

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2009 National Electrical Manufacturers Association. eiXtra is a biweekly e-newsletter for electroindustry professionals summarizing key manufacturer, standardization, and regulatory news. NEMA does not sell or release subscriber's personal information and will never willfully disclose individually identifiable information to any third party without first receiving your permission. Privacy policy.
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