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How SGIP Develops and Coordinates Standards for the Smart Grid


Here’s a scenario that many of us have experienced:

A woman wearing a hard hat and holding a wrenchYou are undertaking a home-improvement project and need a few tools and supplies. You walk into one of those huge superstores that sells every conceivable tool, piece of hardware, and type of material that you could ever need for any possible building project. You’re overwhelmed and look around to find a knowledgeable expert for some help…

Here’s a similar scenario related to building the Smart Grid—the next-generation, information-technology-based electricity distribution system:

Imagine that you are undertaking the building of a reliable, flexible, efficient, safe, and robust information network to carry all the data that link the many components of the Smart Grid. You want to make sure that power plants, refrigerators, solar panels, electric cars, office buildings, and electric meters can share information. Faced with the expansive and bewildering array of information and communication technologies now available in the 21st century, you look around to find a knowledgeable expert for some help...

For the Smart Grid, that "knowledgeable expert" is the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP). The SGIP, a consensus-based group of public and private organizations, was created in 2009 by NIST to support NIST's mission to coordinate the development of Smart Grid standards.

Of course, the Smart Grid is such a complex and far-reaching "system of systems" that no one individual will have the expertise to answer all questions. The SGIP, therefore, is a forum where many experts can work together for a common purpose—developing the standards necessary for building an interoperable Smart Grid.

Within the SGIP, groups of technical experts are assembled on an as-needed basis to deal with specific areas for which standards are needed. Each group of individuals—and the subject on which it is working—is known as a “Priority Action Plan” or PAP. (Other working groups and committees work on areas and subjects that are more cross-cutting and less specific, such as architecture, cybersecurity, or intellectual property rights.) As of December 2012, the SGIP  established 22 PAPs, dealing with areas as technical, diverse, and far-flung as "Wind Plant Communications" (PAP 16), "Plug-in Electric Vehicles” (PAP 11), and "Harmonization of IEEE C37.118 with IEC 61850 and Precision Time Synchronization" (PAP 13).

The PAP Process for Standards Development and Coordination

Bringing together, in an open and consensus-based process, all the individuals and organizations involved in and affected by the Smart Grid is a complicated challenge. The SGIP, through its PAP process, provides an open mechanism for all affected parties to work together and reach a consensus. At the same time, this process draws on the deep expertise and formal standards-development process already existing in organizations known as standards-setting organizations (SSOs).

For each component involved in the Smart Grid—whether it is a power station, a household appliance, an electric meter, a smart phone, or an electric car—there are one or more SSOs which develop standards for that particular component. In the case of Internet Protocols (PAP 1), for example, there is one SSO playing the lead role, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). For the Energy Usage Information Standard (PAP 10), there are a dozen SSOs involved.

Within each PAP, the working group of experts meets regularly, both in face-to-face meetings and in virtual meetings. The group’s process usually includes setting requirements, building use cases, identifying and working with key SSOs, and, finally, making specific recommendations to the SGIP Governing Board. The PAP recommendations are then reviewed by other groups within the SGIP to ensure that the standards fit within the overall Smart Grid architecture and meet cybersecurity requirements and guidelines.

A group of people looking over a document
(For readers who want to delve into the details of the PAP process, here is a website with additional information: http://collaborate.nist.gov/twiki-sggrid/bin/view/SmartGrid/PriorityActionPlans).


An energy efficient lightbulbStandards That Have Emerged from the PAP Process

As of December 2012, the recommendations of 10 different PAPs (0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 18) were received and accepted by votes of the Governing Board and Plenary. As of May 2013, the number of standards or standards components added to the Catalog of Standards stands at 56. (As additional PAPs complete their work in the coming weeks and months, the links below will be expanded and updated.)

For a layperson’s description of several of the standards that have emerged from the PAP process and been accepted by the Board and Plenary, please visit the following webpages:

PAP 1: Building an “Energy Internet”: Internet Protocols for the Smart Grid.

PAP 11: Charging Your Electric Car on the Smart Grid: Three Key Standards.

For a more detailed and technical description of each PAP, the recommended standard(s), and the extensive work that led up to their acceptance, please visit the following webpage:

Priority Action Plans