The Commerce Department unveiled the first 77 "smart grid" standards today aimed at removing a major barrier to the implementation of digital grid technologies.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology draft report highlights 31 standards with "relevance" to smart-grid development and another 46 standards as "potentially" applicable to the smart grid.

"Central to this report is cybersecurity," Secretary Gary Locke said at the GridWeek conference in Washington, D.C. "We need to do it right, but we cannot take forever because everything else depends on the foundation of our cybersecurity efforts."

While NIST has held three workshops that drew more than 1,500 participants to work on the initial standards, the agency will also collect comments for 30 days on the draft report. After that, NIST will release the final standards report, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will decide which standards will be authorized, as mandated by the 2007 energy bill.

NIST plans to release the final "phase 1.0" report by the end of the year, the Commerce Department said.

"We are moving aggressively," Locke said. "We will not let up. We will make the smart grid a reality in America."

The report also identifies 70 "gaps" that must be addressed in the standards and 14 "priority action" plans that "most urgently" need support -- including standards for smart meter upgradeability, price and product definitions, energy-use information, guidelines for wireless communications, and electric storage and vehicle interoperability standards.

NIST and stakeholders have already finished one "priority action" standard. The first official standard on smart meter upgradeability was also announced today by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, an association of electrical and medical imaging equipment manufacturers. NIST and other stakeholders identified the need for "guidance" for utilities planning to invest in smart meters for pilot projects and demonstration projects before the standards were completed. The report said utilities are projected to ultimately invest $40 billion to $50 billion in smart meters and globally install 100 million new smart grids in five years.

Many utilities have already included smart-meter pilot projects and technology in applications funded by $4 billion from the stimulus law. The Energy Department's initial request for proposals for the grants has already been "dramatically oversubscribed," according to DOE.

"Phase 2" of the smart grid process includes the creation of a "Smart Grid Interoperability Panel" to continue the standards process, and "phase 3" will develop and implement a framework for testing and certification. NIST plans to take steps toward implementation in 2010, the report says.

"While standards are necessary for achieving interoperability, they are not sufficient," the report says. "A testing and certification regime is essential."

Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC., 202-628-6500