Smart grids need money, standards

With the aid of money from the Recovery Act, and a new study finding that cumulative spending on “smart grid” infrastructure will exceed $33 billion by 2014, smart grids will not want for funding. But grid and smart meter standards remain a key hurdle for the industry.

According to a study by NextGen Research utilities and governments worldwide spent more than $12 billion in upgrades and deployment of smart grids. The study, authored by Atakan Ozbek, found no clear leadership in the smart grid sector between North America and Europe. Although Europe has more smart grid-related technologies, the “US smart grid market has seen a greater level of activity since late 2007,” Mr. Ozbek said in an announcement.

Last week, Vice President Joe Biden announced that $3.3 billion will be devoted to smart grid technologies in the Recovery Act. This surely affected projections of the study, indicating the US will overtake Europe in its number of smart meters by 2014.

Monday, Miami said it was looking to get $200 million in stimulus funds in order to increase smart meter deployment in one million homes and business around the city. General Electric and Cisco Systems are teaming up with Florida Power & Light for the project, an announcement said.

One of the major obstacles for the industry is that of standards and security. The National Institute for Standards and Technology is taking the lead, but it will need help from industry leaders of IT, telecommunication and electric utilities. Mr. Ozbek also points out that a number of electronic/IT systems will need to cooperate to improve existing infrastructure and define standards. “The early movers, like PG&E and Austin Energy, should take advantage of their early participation in the field to establish open standards,” which would allow smart grid deployments to progress more quickly, with predictable costs, he said.

On Tuesday, California Public Utilities Commission head, Rachelle Chong tweeted for about six hours about their Symposium on smart grids. The symposium discussed cybersecurity, the Recovery Act, and Department of Energy Notice of Funding Availabilty (NOFAs). Since CivSource wasn’t there, you’ll have to read about it somewhere else, but notable tweets include:

#smartgrid Recovery Act funding to go straight from DOE to grantees. Not to states, unlike other Recovery Act grants.

#smartgrid SG Demo project: 4-5 grid monitoring projects. $5M to $60 M each project. FOA: April 16, 2009; comments May 6.

#smartgrid Regulators: understand the need to implement sometimes costly security measures to avoid serious future security problems.

#smartgrid Regulators need to understand the issues by SG interoperability rqmts, need for interoperability stnds. also.

#smartgrid NIST has a reputation has a neutral honest broker, facilitator and convenor. They have testing and certification experience.

#smartgrid Some standards will become mandatory via a FERC rulemaking.

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