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Framework 3.0 Beginner's Guide

Framework 3.0 A Beginner's Guide

The goal of the smart grid—an emerging nationwide network that modernizes the electric power grid so that it incorporates information technology— is to deliver electricity reliably, efficiently, sustainably, and securely, while also supporting many new services and applications.
With initial deployments, consumers are beginning to see benefits, based on the ability of a modernized national electrical grid to:

  • Provide consumers with actionable and timely information about their energy usage
  • Facilitate expanded use of renewable energy sources
  • Improve resilience to disruption by natural disasters and attacks
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by enabling electric vehicles and new power sources
  • Improve power reliability and quality
  • Increase consumer choice, and enable new products, services, and markets

To realize these many benefits, the smart grid community is building a modernized grid that is actually a complex, inter-related "system of systems." Unlike the grid of the past century, which primarily delivers electricity in a one-way flow from generator to outlet, the emerging smart grid will enable two-way flows of both electricity and information. As the grid is modernized, there will be many interconnected parts and processes, built and created by many different manufacturers, and used by a diverse array of stakeholders. "Interoperability," which is the ability of diverse systems and their components to work together, will be vitally important to the performance of the smart grid at every level.

Just as the construction of a fully functioning modern home requires a detailed blueprint and a carefully coordinated construction plan, the development of the smart grid requires a framework and a roadmap for interoperability. A framework provides a common vision and vocabulary, a set of shared principles and practices, and a collective agreement on standards and protocols. A roadmap lays out the process—including steps, timetable, participants, priorities, intermediate goals, and more—required to make that vision a reality.


The task of developing such a framework and roadmap falls squarely within the mission of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). NIST's mission is 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. NIST has earned a reputation as an "honest broker" that works collaboratively with industry and other government agencies.

The electrical industry, in particular, has always had a strong partnership with NIST. Therefore, when the federal government charted the next steps for our country's energy future—as outlined in the "Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA)"—NIST was given a key role. NIST was assigned "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..." [EISA Section 1305].The legislation also directed that the framework be "flexible, uniform, and technology neutral."

NIST began working on this assignment in 2008, and Release 1.0 of the Framework and Roadmap was published in January 2010.Release 2.0 was published in February 2012.The current document, Release 3.0, was published in September 2014, and its contents reflect the many advancements related to smart grid interoperability that we have witnessed since 2008.

The following paragraphs describe the contents of Framework 3.0.The sentences in bold highlight some of the important changes from previous versions of the framework.

Chapter 1, "Purpose and Scope," provides useful background information, such as reviewing how the federal government—and NIST, in particular—has been involved in the development of the smart grid. This chapter also defines key concepts and identifies the priority areas and functionalities on which NIST is focusing its smart grid program.

Chapter 2, "Smart Grid Visions," provides a high-level description of the envisioned smart grid, including benefits, costs, and international aspects. This chapter describes how and why standards and interoperability are so important for the smart grid.

Chapter 3, "Smart Grid Interoperability Panel," describes how NIST has convened and engaged the many diverse stakeholders from across the broad smart grid community—with the goal of coordinating and accelerating the development of standards and protocols that will ensure smart grid interoperability. The Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) is the organization that NIST established in November 2009 for this purpose. In 2013, the SGIP transitioned its functions from a government-funded public-private partnership to an industry-led, non-profit organization, Smart Grid Interoperability Panel 2.0,Inc.NIST maintains a prominent leadership role in the activities of the SGIP, and provides some funding through a cooperative agreement program. The history, objectives, structure, and outputs of the SGIP organization are outlined in this chapter(and in Appendix D: SGIP Committees, Domain Expert Working Groups (DEWGs), and Priority Action Plans (PAPs)).


Chapter 4, "Standards Identified for Implementation," is a very useful chapter for many readers, especially non-experts, because it provides specific information about the standards and protocols that NIST has identified as supporting interoperability of the smart grid. These are the building blocks for interoperability. NIST uses listed guiding principles and criteria, described in this chapter, in the standard review and identification process. The 74 standards thus identified (including 7 standards not included in earlier releases of the framework) are listed in Table 4-1.This detailed 67-page table groups the standards and protocols into four sections: Standards and Specifications; Cross-cutting Standards; Requirements and Guidelines; and Cybersecurity. For each standard, the table includes:

  • The name and/or number for the standard
  • A link to the website of the relevant standards-setting organization
  • The application for which the standard is used
  • Comments that briefly describe the purpose and function of the standard
  • The relevant smart grid architectural domains
  • The cybersecurity review of the standard, from the SGIP's Smart Grid Cybersecurity Committee
  • Information on whether the standard is included in the SGIP's Catalog of Standards (and, if so, a link to additional detailed background information available through the SGIP Catalog of Standards' search page)

This chapter also discusses the process for identifying future smart grid standards. In all, hundreds of standards will likely be required to build a safe and secure smart grid that is interoperable, end to end. Therefore, the list of identified standards will continue to grow as the smart grid is developed, new needs and priorities are identified, and new technologies emerge.

Chapter 5, "Architectural Framework," describes how the various "building-block" standards fit into the overall structure of the smart grid. Because the smart grid is an evolving networked system of systems, this high-level architectural model encourages a common perspective of the smart grid; identifies key interactions and interfaces; and provides guidance for standards-setting organizations (SSOs) developing more detailed views of smart grid architecture. Architectural goals for the smart grid are outlined in this chapter, and include such characteristics as capability to support a broad range of technology options, flexibility, upgradeability, security, and interoperability. The earlier versions of the smart grid framework document depicted and defined a conceptual model with seven domains. In Framework 3.0's Chapter 5 and Appendices B and C, extensive work has been done to refine and extend that model, in the following ways:

  • Modifying the conceptual domain model to reflect the growing importance of distributed generation by renaming and moving the "bulk generation" domain into a "generation" domain with interactions with multiple domains (see diagram below)

  • Aligning and harmonizing the architecture with similar work being done by the European community's SmartGrid Coordination Group (SG-CG)

  • Describing a new "Smart Grid Architecture Model"(SGAM) that uses the concepts of abstraction layers and stakeholder viewpoints in an enterprise-wide service-oriented approach

  • Identifying future work needed to define a semantic framework


Created October 24, 2014, Updated September 21, 2016