Energy-efficient electric grid faces challenges

The new plan by the U.S. Dept. of Energy and the National Institute of Standards and Technology faces questions on reliability and cost.


Doubts have arisen about the U.S. Dept. of Energy's new power grid plan, based on questions of its reliability and cost-effectiveness .


The plan, which will allow engineers and regulators an opportunity to work with developers to standardize security in the new infrastructure from the beginning, could make the power grid not only smarter but also more secure than the aging system the country now uses. But electrical power is an aspect of national security, meaning Congress will have to work with the DOE, as well as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), to ensure the plan does not pose threats to the grid's information technology systems and enforcing security requirements.

At the same time, NIST is working on the grid's technical standards for interoperability and security. The $10 million research was financed by the DOE, and should be completed soon to create those standards. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides $4.5 billion for smart-grid research and development, and vendors are eager to start working on smart-grid technologies.


NIST will work with utilities, equipment suppliers, consumers, and standards organizations to refine the list of existing standards and then develop a testing and certification program for the new smart grid.

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