SGIP blazing the trail for achieving smart grid interoperability
Interoperability is, of course, one of the cornerstones of a modern electrical grid. Interoperability allows new technologies to be added to the grid infrastructure as soon as it makes business sense for utilities to do so. Many of you know that this longstanding technical challenge received official recognition from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 with the creation of the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel, or SGIP. I believe the SGIP is truly a “trailblazer” in this area, in that, as far as I know, no private sector industry as a whole has ever attempted a non-vendor driven focus of wide scale product availability for off-the-shelf interoperable products for industry consumption. I’m honored to have served as a representative of the Testing and Vendors category in the SGIP Governing Board and also to be chairing the Smart Grid Testing and Certification standing committee within SGIP. I’d like to share with you, on Grid Insights, how we approach the interoperability challenge.
While the ARRA includes many directives and items, it gives the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) the responsibility to be the U.S. government’s representative in this public/private partnership for the smart grid power industry. The SGIP has more than 600 member companies whose primary focus is achieving interoperability while maintaining security in the software and hardware systems composing the North American smart grid.
There are many facets to achieving wide scale interoperability. However, one must first realize that achieving certified interoperability requires in-depth analysis of the more than one hundred primary standards --which may overlap and have conflicting requirements for implementation. Additionally, as anybody familiar with the industry knows, some of the standards used are rather “esoteric.” While one can easily find mathematicians in any university who can read and understand a technical document describing say, an encryption algorithm. One will have a much more difficult time finding experts with a background enabling them to read and to understand standards which often predate modern digital technology and to be put into effect using equipment intended to “last” (read – not change) for 30 to 40 years!
Multiply that by the fact that these standards have been implemented in hardware owned by more than 3,000 separate utilities having a yearly combined revenue stream of over $350 billion USD, and you begin to realize the complexities involved in our daily work.
The primary facets of interoperability we study are:
- The cyber security of interoperable products.
- Third-party verification of products which are said to meet the conformance and interoperability requirements.
- Education of buyers on the payback for purchasing third-party-verified cyber-secure, interoperable products in lieu of non-verified products.
- Financial analysis of ROI expectations from wide-scale interoperable product availability.
If you’re interested in following developments at a level accessible to the general public, I recommend visiting the NIST Smart Grid Interoperability website. If you want a more technical, nitty-gritty level, visit the NIST Smart Grid Collaboration wiki. And if you’d like to contribute to the Smart Grid Interoperability effort, join one of our Domain Expert Working Groups.
In my next post, I’ll discuss how we approach verification of interoperability claims and the Interoperability Process Reference Manual.
Rik Drummond, CEO Drummond Group Inc
- An Accredited Test Lab and Certification Body by NAVLAP and ANSI
- Chair emeritus DoE’s Grid Wise Architecture Council
- Chair NIST Smart Grid Interoperability Panel’s Testing and Certification Committee