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NIST and the Smart Grid

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) supports one of the key roles in the growth of the smart grid—bringing together manufacturers, consumers, energy providers, and regulators to develop "interoperable standards." In other words, NIST is responsible for making sure the many pieces of "the world's largest and most complex machine" are able to work together.

Since its establishment in 1901, NIST has earned a reputation as an "honest broker" that works collaboratively with industry and other government agencies. Over the past century, NIST's mission has been to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life.

Today in the 21st century, then, NIST is ideally suited for its latest assignment. As outlined in the "The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007" (Public Law 110-140, often referred to as "EISA"), NIST has been given "primary responsibility to coordinate development of a framework that includes protocols and model standards for information management to achieve interoperability of smart grid devices and systems."

What is interoperability?

Interoperability—the ability of diverse systems and their components to work together—is vitally important to the performance of the smart grid at every level. It enables integration, effective cooperation, and two-way communication among the many interconnected elements of the electric power grid. To achieve effective interoperability, we must build a unifying framework of interfaces, protocols, and other consensus standards.

These standards facilitate useful interactions so that, for example, "smart" appliances and "smart meters" will tell consumers how much power they are using and at what cost, providing them with more control over their power consumption and energy bills. These standards will also encourage the development of the infrastructure that will enable widespread use of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs). Furthermore, widely adopted standards will help utilities to mix and manage varying supplies of solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources and to better respond to changing demand.

In some cases, existing standards may work just fine in the smart grid. In other cases, however, new standards must be developed for the new interactions made possible by the smart grid.

How can I get involved?

For those interested in following developments at a level accessible to the general public, we recommend visiting the NIST Smart Grid website frequently.

For those interested in following developments at a more technical, nitty-gritty level, we recommend visiting the NIST Smart Grid Collaboration Website.