The governing board of the public-private Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) has voted in favor of a new standard important for two-way data communications between utilities and their customers, bringing the next-generation smart electrical power grid a step closer to reality.

The board's vote concerns a foundational standard for the information used to communicate between utilities and the customer and the way in which that information is organized. This new energy usage data model standard was achieved through completion of Priority Action Plan 10, one of 17 Priority Action Plans (PAPs) established within the SGIP to address critical standards needs in order to realize an energy-efficient, modern power grid with seamlessly interoperable parts.

The data standard was developed by the North American Energy Standards Board (NAESB) at the request of the SGIP and the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and will allow utilities and customers to exchange detailed information about electricity usage in a consistent format. This will enable consumers to track their electricity usage and help them better manage their energy consumption and costs. Developed through NAESB's American National Standards Institute (ANSI)-accredited process, the model is a ratified NAESB standard and will be included in NAESB's filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) next month.

"This essential standard establishes the foundational energy usage data structure for the smart grid," says David Wollman, NIST lead on the SGIP team. "It provides the basis for multiple additional standards and resulting applications that will empower consumers to more easily monitor and then modify their energy usage and reduce their costs."

The recommended standard is also expected to create opportunities for innovation. With utilities now installing smart electric meters in millions of homes and businesses, established companies and start-ups are developing new products and services tailored to the energy-use behaviors and objectives of consumers. Smart meter technology will enable near real-time communication of energy use, consumption, quality, and source, among other information. The standard is Internet-friendly and its applications will include enabling customers to view and understand their energy usage and cost using local access devices and over the Internet.

"This vote is a key step as the emerging smart grid progresses toward a cost-effective, interoperable system that will accommodate the energy-related devices and services of any vendor who complies with accepted standards," says SGIP administrator Erich Gunther.

A summary of the PAP 10 standards coordination and development process can be found here and the full standards are available from the NAESB through its website.