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Smart Grid Testing and Certification


The Smart Grid Testing and Certification Project provides overall coordination and leadership of NIST technical activities in working with industry to support standards-based interoperability test programs that will seek to accelerate smart grid deployments and ensure interoperability. The smart grid is extremely complex and is comprised of many systems within systems that are owned and operated by thousands of entities.  These systems must be able to communicate and work together to achieve the full benefits of the smart grid. Defined standards and robust testing regimes will be required to ensure communications and interoperability among these systems. A testing and certification landscape analysis conducted in 2019 found a small number of smart grid standards have associated industry recognized test programs. Some new programs are being developed and benefitted from NIST participation in their development. Therefore, this project seeks to further incubate and develop new programs, as well as engaging with industry stakeholders to assure that new test programs will help to enable interoperability and support new technology adoption.


Objective:   To accelerate the development of new test programs and improve existing test programs for smart grid interoperability and security by utilizing the ANSI/NEMA Interoperability Process Reference Manual (IPRM) testing and certification framework, and demonstrating benefits of testing and certification to end users and regulators.

What is the Technical Idea? 
The smart grid is comprised of over 3,200 utilities and includes many systems within each utility that must work together across the entire electric grid.  This interoperation is required to enable full functionality of the smart grid and to derive all of its benefits.  Test programs will help ensure that interoperability is achieved in new smart grid deployments and also save utilities costs and shorten time for deployments. NIST analyzed 240 standards that are supporting smart grid implementation and found limited availability of industry testing and certification programs for these standards.

The approach of this project is to collaborate with the smart grid ecosystem to accelerate the development and adoption of new required smart grid test programs. Establishment and operation of test programs can be costly and human resource intensive. Thus, key elements of this project are to identify potential solutions to accelerate program development and critical interfaces that require test programs to support smart grid deployments and operations. A proposed solution is to develop Interoperability Profiles to reduce the complexity of implementing a standard and the associated testing requirements to accelerate the development of testing and certification for smart grid related standards.  

In addition, new test programs require demand drivers to assure broad industry support and adoption. This project will include an outreach effort with utilities and regulators to educate them on test program benefits, which will drive demand for new and existing test programs. It will provide insight to understanding the opportunities, industry support, and potential barriers for these new test programs, as well as provide collaboration with the smart grid ecosystem to develop demand drivers for the creation and continued operation of these new test programs.

What is the Research Plan?  
The research plan comprises of three major components – provide leadership in smart grid testing and certification, develop an interoperability profile to support smart grid test program development, and provide education and outreach on the benefit of testing and certification. Smart Grid Program staff will continue to lead the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) Testing and Certification Working Group (TCWG).  The goal of TCWG is to facilitate the development of new smart grid test programs, and to ensure—whenever practical—that these programs are based on the SEPA Testing and Certification Framework.  Part of the SEPA Testing and Certification Framework includes the ANSI/NEMA Interoperability Process Reference Manual (IPRM), a standard that was developed in collaboration with NIST staff and can be used by Interoperability Testing and Certification Authority (ITCA) to set up test programs.  

The second component of the research plan is to develop an interoperability profile to improve interoperability and accelerate testing and certification program development. An Interoperability Profile is a well-defined subset of the standard for implementation that has been agreed upon by a user community, testing authority, or standards body.  By defining this implementation subset—which could describe a subset of supported data types, logical nodes and elements, or services—an Interoperability Profile would narrow interoperability gaps by reducing the degrees of freedom and for implementing standards by the device supplier, implementer, and system owner.   An interoperability profile with specific performance requirements can be verified through interoperability testing and certification; can be listed by vendors that support those requirements; and can be used in procurement specifications by end users.  This approach could help facilitate the development and utilization of testing and certification programs, and advance interoperability for smart grid equipment and systems.  

The final component of the research plan is to expand industry outreach and advocacy to facilitate adoption of test programs by utilities and other stakeholders as a key element in their evaluation and selection processes for new grid technologies. Model procurement language and procurement examples are being developed to help end users specify interoperability requirements for their procurements to ensure that the products that they purchased will be interoperable. There is a knowledge gap on the value and benefits of standard-based test programs in the smart grid ecosystem that limits their adoption, a gap which NIST can address through these outreach activities. Additionally, NIST staff is supporting the development of test programs including IEEE 1588 power profile and OpenFMB.

Created December 14, 2012, Updated July 8, 2023