Commerce Secretary Gary Locke recently unveiled an accelerated plan for developing standards to transform the U.S. power distribution system into a secure, more efficient, and environmentally friendly Smart Grid and create clean-energy jobs. Produced by the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the approximately 90-page document identifies about 80 initial standards that will enable the vast number of interconnected devices and systems that will make up the nationwide Smart Grid to communicate and work with each other. These standards will support interoperability of all the various pieces of the system, ranging from large utility companies down to individual homes and electronic devices. The report also lists a set of 14 priority action plans that address the most important gaps in the initial standard set.

"To use an analogy from the construction world, this report is like a designer's first detailed drawing of a complex structure," says Locke. "It presents a high-level conceptual model to ensure that everyone is on the same page before moving forward to develop more detailed, formal Smart Grid architectures. This high-level model is critical to help plan where to go next."

The draft will be posted for a 30-day period of public comment and review. According to George Arnold, NIST's national coordinator for Smart Grid interoperability, finalizing the standards will ensure that the grid transformation goes both smoothly and rapidly — a priority of the Obama Administration. About $4.5 billion of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 funds to the U.S. Department of Energy also are slated for Smart Grid demonstration projects.

"Because of the urgent need to remake the grid into a modern power distribution system, we have set a timetable that is much swifter than usual for establishing these standards," says Arnold. "But at the same time, we also want to be certain that the initial standards we establish will hold up in the future so that investments in the Smart Grid will not become prematurely obsolete."

When completed, the Smart Grid will employ real-time, two-way digital information and communication technologies in the operation of the nation's electricity grid. The system would allow consumers to better manage and control their energy use and costs, reduce America's dependence on foreign oil, and create clean-energy jobs.

The draft report, "NIST Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability Standards, Release 1.0," incorporates input from more than 1,500 industry, government, and other stakeholders who have participated in the NIST framework development process. The draft of the report can be downloaded from the NIST Web site.

For more information on NIST's work with Smart Grid technology, visit the NIST Web site.