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Smart Grid Panel Agrees on Standards for Wireless Communication, Meter Upgrades

The governing board of the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) has voted in favor of a new standard and a set of guidelines important for making the long-planned "smart" electricity grid a reality. The two documents address the need for wireless communications among grid-connected devices as well as the ability to upgrade household electricity meters as the Smart Grid evolves.

The documents were identified by the SGIP along with other standards development projects called "Priority Action Plans," or PAPs, that describe critical needs for realizing an energy-efficient, modern power grid with seamlessly interoperable parts. The SGIP, a group of public and private organizations, was created by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to coordinate development of consensus-based Smart Grid standards.

Almost every house has an electricity meter, and the "Meter Upgradeability Standard" (PAP 0) is designed to ensure that the new generation of smart electricity meters does not become obsolete. According to Paul Molitor, Industry Director for Smart Grid at the National Electrical Manufacturer's Association, PAP 0 aims to "future-proof" these meters.

"More than 50 million houses across the country will need new meters for the Smart Grid to function, and PAP 0 will ensure that this substantial upfront investment of time and money is protected," Molitor said. "PAP 0 makes it possible to upgrade any meter as the standards evolve, and to do so remotely."

The "Guidelines for Assessing Wireless Communications for Smart Grid Applications" (PAP 2) covers standards necessary for wireless communications between all devices connected to the Smart Grid—not just the meters on your house, but the wide range of components in generation plants, substations and transmission systems necessary to keep energy flowing among the myriad points on the grid.

"Technologies like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth were not designed with Smart Grid in mind," says NIST's Nada Golmie. "What PAP 2 does is ensure that any technologies that we use—whether off-the-shelf or not—will provide the features the grid needs."

Golmie says that—to give one example—there can be far less tolerance of delays between transmission and reception or interruption of signals among grid devices than there is among general data communication devices, such as cell phones. PAP 2's goal is to specify wireless technology performance that is grid-worthy.

"We would like vendors and standard-setting organizations to become aware of the features a grid-worthy technology will have," she says. "We're trying to help facilitate a conversation between technology developers and grid operators, to ensure they are all on the same page. It's hard to do that without hard numbers about how devices must perform, and PAP 2 provides these numbers."

For more details, see the NIST April 19, 2011, release "Smart Grid Panel Agrees on Standards and Guidelines for Wireless Communication, Meter Upgrades."

Released April 26, 2011, Updated January 24, 2023