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Patrick Gallagher
Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology
Opening Keynote
Grid-Interop 2009, Nov. 17, 2009
Denver, Colo.


As prepared

Good morning. I’d like to add my welcome to all of you. And, I want to take a moment to express my gratitude to our partners who have worked so closely with NIST in arranging this year’s Grid Interop meeting: the Department of Energy, the GridWise Architecture Council, the event sponsors, and the other organizations,

Grid-Interop is one of the key annual Smart Grid events. It is focused specifically on the issues and technologies for interoperability and cyber-security. I can think of no better forum for us, this diverse group of participants and stakeholders, to join together as partners to map out how we turn a complex set of diverse technologies and subsystems into a single, effective, secure, and useable Smart Grid system. As you all know very well, this is a formidable challenge. And while we have made great progress – surpassing the expectations of many critics, and even champions – there is still a long way to go.

This morning, I’d like to quickly review some of our recent progress and highlight some of the remaining challenges. But before I do that, I’d like to remind us all of why this endeavor is so important. The creation of a Smart Grid is a critical national policy objective. Since taking office, President Obama has described the Smart Grid as central to his goals to promote a clean energy economy. It is interesting to me that an infrastructure project – the modernization of our electrical distribution system - would rise to the level of a major national goal. Interesting, but perhaps not surprising. Infrastructure is, after all, an enabler. It allows new functionality--- opportunities to do things that couldn’t be done before. Therefore, new infrastructure has the potential to not just solve an immediate problem – like improving the resilience of the grid against blackouts, or enabling distributed power generation – but it also opens the possibility of brand new products and services, many of which we have only begun to imagine. Like many of the other great infrastructure projects in our nation’s history, especially in transportation and communication, the Smart Grid has the potential to transform our country.

This is the meaning of a "green energy economy". It is the resulting economic advantage that comes from tackling the nation’s urgent energy needs. For this reason, the President describes a smarter, stronger, and more secure electric grid as the foundation for lasting growth and prosperity. We could not be joined together on a more important task.

Of course, being part of a national priority means that the Smart Grid will be the focus of great effort and resources. Just a few weeks ago, the President’s announced 100 Smart Grid Investment Grant awards totaling $3.4 billion. This federal investment leveraged an additional $4.7 billion in commitments from the private companies, utilities, cities, and other partners that are forging ahead with plans to install smart grid technologies and enable an array of efficiency- maximizing applications. With this new infusion of funding, the number of Smart Grid projects in the United States has jumped to more than 130 projects spread across 45 states and territories. Over the next 3 years, about 18 million smart meters and 1.2 million in-home displays will be deployed. In addition, we will see about 200,000 smart power transformers go on line, and installation of hundreds of phasor measurement units will enable 100 percent coverage of the grid for greater control and reliability.

These exciting—and impending—developments bring us back to why we are here: Interoperability.

Needless to say, the pressure to fast track development and harmonization of interoperability and, of course, cyber-security standards has ratcheted upward from already high levels.

Since the beginning of this year, this community has made an amazing amount of progress. Many of you deserve credit for the impressive set of accomplishments achieved under extremely aggressive time pressure. These early results would have been impossible without extraordinary personal and organizational dedication. I want to thank you all again for your hard work and dedication.

The Smart Grid standards effort is raising eyebrows. We have accomplished in months what it took other industrial sectors – George’s favorite example is the telecom industry --- much longer to do. This may be remembered as one of the most comprehensive and rapid standards development efforts ever undertaken. I hope so. By the end of December, NIST will publish the final version Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability Standards. This document is our starting point. It identifies the initial set of consensus standards for the next-generation electric power grid. It describes a common reference model for the system terminology and architecture. It also identifies important next steps, and specifically includes 16 "priority action plans" to fill gaps quickly. The first—a meter upgradability standard--was completed in less than 90 days with the help of a team of meter manufacturers and electric utilities. The standard has been approved by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. This standard will be used by smart meter suppliers, utility customers, and key constituents, such as regulators, to guide both development and decision making as related to smart meter upgradability. This is truly an example of accelerated standards development.

There are a lot of standards deliverables, targeted for the end of this year and throughout 2010. Breakout sessions this week at Grid Interop will be reviewing progress and plans for the 15 Priority Action Plans still in the works. Note that we are also using this meeting to launch a new action plan, which aims to harmonize power line carrier standards for Smart Grid applications.

This Roadmap is not a NIST achievement. This is your achievement. We at NIST, together with my colleagues at the Departments of Commerce and Energy, and across the government, applaud you for the high level of commitment that many of you and your organizations have devoted to this sometimes grueling but never dull effort.

Even as NIST prepares to issue the final version of the initial release its Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability Standards next month, it is imperative that we remind ourselves that this is the beginning of the process, not the end. It is essential that we continue to keep up this aggressive pace. We may even need to accelerate it further! There are lots of critical standards issues to be worked out as we move toward safe, secure Smart Grid that is interoperable—end to end.

An interesting observation: When I talk to many of you about Smart Grid standards, the most common questions I get revolve around "How" are we going to get something done. When I talk to decision makers in Washington, the most common question I tend to get is, "When are you going to be done?"

My answer to them is: "Never". The Smart Grid, like any technology, will evolve and change. If it ever becomes static, that’s probably because it is an obsolete technology. This means that the standards process must also evolve and change (or they are obsolete standards!). Standards must leverage lessons learned from early deployments. And, even more than just react to new requirements and new technologies, standards must enable innovation in Smart Grid applications.

Therefore, the goal isn’t to be "done", the goal is to make sure that our standards efforts are "baked in" to how we work together in developing these technologies. In other words, the sign of being "done" isn’t the completion of a long list of standards.

Our end point really is self sufficiency: a routine, a "built-in" standards process that supports cycle after cycle Smart Grid innovation and transforms our economy.

This is why NIST described a three-phase approach. Phase 1 was the "heroic start". Now we need to convert it into a normal part of business. We are well under way with Phase 2 to put in place a more permanent organizational structure to help NIST in sustaining its fast-paced coordination effort. We will also use this structure to initiate Phase 3, which is to develop the supporting test and certification infrastructure so that our market has the confidence that written standards are "reduced to practice".

Yesterday was another major milestone in our Smart Grid journey, with the community’s ratification of the charter for the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel—or SGIP, for short. The inaugural membership tops 240 organizations that are represented by more than 800 individuals. The election of its governing board begins today.

That is an encouraging start. We fully acknowledge that this is a bootstrapping effort. Or aim was to get this public-private partnership up and running and to allow for subsequent refinements later by the voting membership. As is true for nearly everything else in this endeavor, we had to hit the ground running.

The SGIP is a unique new organization. It provides a forum and a structure for the entire stakeholder community – mostly from the private sector – to work with NIST and other federal agencies in developing the interoperability framework for the Smart Grid. Accomplishing this objective was the job assigned to NIST in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

The panel will not develop standards – that work will continue to be done by standards development organizations at the international and national levels. But the SGIP will be the central coordination point to provide critical guidance in identifying what work is needed and who should do it. And as I noted earlier, the SGIP also has a critical role to play in creating the testing and certification framework to ensure that interoperability is truly achieved.

Another critical role for the SGIP is the further elaboration and definition of the Smart Grid architecture that will be sketched out in Release 1.0 of the NIST Framework and Roadmap report. Getting the architecture right is absolutely critical to ensuring that Smart grid is secure and to enabling innovation.

Another important dimension of our work on the Smart Grid is collaboration with similar efforts going on around the world. Smart grids are being developed in many countries in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. There are differences from country to country, but a lot of the problems and solutions are the same. We all are working toward the same objective – addressing climate change, energy security and reliable electricity to support 21st century needs – and a lot of the Smart Grid suppliers are global. The products and services comprising Smart Grid will be sold and used in a global marketplace. For this very reason, it is our policy in the U.S. to use international standards, wherever possible. We are encouraging participation in our process by other countries so we can create common solutions that feed into international standards.

You are all participants in one of the most exciting global initiatives ever. As President Obama said recently, the realization of the Smart Grid is a cornerstone of efforts to create a clean energy economy. These efforts, he also said, will "require nothing less than the sustained effort of an entire nation—an all-hands-on-deck approach similar to the mobilization that preceded World War II or the Apollo Project."

I am very pleased to join you in this endeavor. Thank you for your dedication and hard work, and please stay involved in this opportunity of a lifetime.