The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission may soon be adding standards related to smart grid technology to the growing list of standards governing the wholesale power market. On October 7, 2010, FERC established a proceeding to consider developing new rules for five categories of standards related to smart grid interoperability developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the federal government's standards-setting agency. While the ultimate impact of the standards to be considered will become clearer as the proceeding evolves, the proceeding may involve mandatory compliance and is further evidence of the focus of lawmakers and regulators on improving the efficiency and reliability of the electrical power grid.

To help facilitate the integration of new smart grid technologies, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 directed NIST to develop a framework of standards for interoperability of smart grid technology with the interstate electric transmission infrastructure and regional and wholesale electricity markets. On October 6th, NIST advised FERC of five categories of standards ready for consideration by regulators, prompting FERC to initiate the pending rulemaking proceeding. If FERC determines there is sufficient consensus among stakeholders, it will implement the rulemaking proceeding and open up the categories of standards to public comment as the first step toward developing final smart grid interoperability rules. In the event FERC exercises its Federal Power Act authority to mandate compliance with the smart grid interoperability standards ultimately approved in the rulemaking, transmission owners and operators, and possibly generator owners and operators, can expect additional compliance obligations

The five categories of standards under consideration for the FERC rulemaking are:

  • Telecontrol Application Service Element 2 (TASE.2) Standards (IEC 60870-6), defining the communications sent between power control centers of electric power system status and control measurements.
  • Communications Networks and Systems for Power Utility Automation (IEC 61850), specifying common data formats for substation automation and communication between substations and from substations to control centers.
  • Application Integration at Electric Utilities – System Interfaces for Distribution Management (IEC 61968), relating to development of a Common Information Model (CIM) for software applications used in managing electrical distribution networks.
  • Energy Management System Application Program Interfaces (EMS-API) (IEC 61970), also relating to development of a Common Information Model, but for software applications used in transmission.
  • Power Systems Management and Associated Information Exchange – Data and Communication Security (IEC 62351), addressing cyber security of the communication protocols defined by the above categories of standards.