FERC finds no sufficient consensus for smart grid interoperability standards


Jon Wellinghoff,
Chairman, FERC
Washington, DC, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — July 21, 2011 The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has found that there is insufficient consensus to institute a rulemaking proceeding to adopt the group of smart grid standards that has been under consideration.

The five families of standards, which help to enable efficient and secure exchanges of information within and across smart grid domains, were:

  • IEC 61968 and IEC 61970, which provide a Common Information Model necessary for exchanges of data between devices and networks, primarily in the transmission and distribution domains
  • IEC 61850, which facilitates substation automation, communication and interoperability through a common data format
  • IEC 60870-6, which facilitates exchanges of information between control centers, and
  • IEC 62351, which addresses the cyber security of the communication protocols defined by the preceding IEC standards.

According to the Order issued by the FERC, based on information gathered at two technical conferences and from a request for comments, commenters were nearly unanimous that the Commission should not adopt these standards at this time, citing concerns with cyber security deficiencies and potential unintended consequences from premature adoption of individual standards.

The Commission said it agrees with commenters’ concerns, observant that certain aspects of the current process in place at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) were not in place during development of the “Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability Standards” document, which was released in January 2010, and the identification of the above standards.

Accordingly, the Commission would not be instituting the rulemaking.

The Commission also said in its Order that it believes the best vehicle for developing smart grid interoperability standards is the NIST interoperability framework process, including the work of the SGIP and its committees and working groups, and encourages utilities, smart grid product manufacturers, regulators, and other smart grid stakeholders to actively participate in this process.

For its part NIST suggested the Commission could send appropriate signals to the marketplace by recommending use of the NIST Framework without mandating compliance with particular standards. Further, it would be impractical and unnecessary for the Commission to adopt individual interoperability standards.

The rulemaking requirement was set down in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which also directed NIST to coordinate the development of a smart grid interoperability framework.