Smart Grid standards for buildings

The development of standards for the Smart Grid provides an early look at what's in store for facilities.


The Smart Grid is modernization of the U.S. electricity infrastructure from both the supply side and the demand side. The supply side includes generating stations; transmission and distribution lines and facilities; and the associated regulatory bodies, utilities, and service providers. The demand side consists of residential, commercial, and industrial electricity customers, and the service providers that help them manage energy use. 

Smart grid technology development, funding, and benefits are weighted toward supply-side entities—for example, for smart meter deployment, electrical storage facilities, and special sensors for monitoring and reporting grid conditions. On the demand side, emphasis is on a wider and more standard deployment of demand-response technologies that enable campuses and buildings to better manage on-site power systems and to respond to pricing and control signals from utilities. Note: The Smart Grid is not so much of buildings reducing electricity consumption, but realizing lower electricity bills by managing electricity more strategically.

Many, if not most, of the technologies and processes needed for the Smart Grid already are in place in different markets. California, Texas, and Florida, for example, have robust demand-response markets with buildings responding to pricing or control signals from many utilities. What the Smart Grid movement represents is a massive integration, standardization, and promulgation of these technologies and processes from several states to all or most states.

Even at the 30,000-ft level, the Smart Grid is complex—so it should not be any surprise that the development of new standards is underway to help articulate everything from broad conceptual frameworks for how bulk power will be bought, sold, and transported to the minutia of how buildings’ energy management systems will respond to a pricing signal from a utility.

This article presents a brief overview of the Smart Grid standards that are relevant to buildings.

The transformation of the grid to the Smart Grid began in earnest in 2007 with a $4.3 billion infusion of funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. In addition to funding demonstration projects, R&D ventures, and the deployment of millions of smart meters, the funding initiated a standards development program chaired by the National Institute of Standards Technology (NIST). Additionally, the U.S. Dept. of Energy formed the GridWise Architecture Council (GWAC) to spearhead the development of interoperability frameworks for the Smart Grid that would facilitate Smart Grid development for the long term while also supporting a gradual migration from the current grid to the Smart Grid.

NIST and GWAC programs are being conducted as public-private partnerships that involve experts from state and federal agencies, industry, and nongovernmental organizations. Development of the Smart Grid standards infrastructure is being conducted in a highly transparent fashion. The standards, guidelines, and reports in development are public (, and, and so are the minutes from meetings, PowerPoint presentations, draft documents, comments, etc.

Smart Grid priorities

As part of its Smart Grid program, NIST has empanelled 18 Priority Action Panels (PAPs), which are reviewing applicable existing standards, initiating and administering the development of new ones, and identifying issues and resolutions that cross multiple standards. Table 1 lists the PAPs by their number and topic. The PAPs cover domains such as setting and communicating pricing, scheduling, and how demand response programs and distributed energy resources are to interoperate.

The PAPs that most directly affect facilities and their interaction on the Smart Grid are PAPs 3, 4, 9, 10, and 17. PAPs 3 and 4 (pricing and scheduling) will feed directly into PAP 9 (DR and DER signals). PAP 10 will establish how meter data or other usage data (which might be communicated by sensors over the Internet rather than through a meter) will communicate. PAP 17 will “lead to development of a data model standard to enable energy consuming devices and control systems in the customer premises to manage electrical loads and generation sources in response to communication with the Smart Grid.” Engineers, owners, and other professionals in the buildings industry who are interested in following Smart Grid developments can learn much by following the PAPs via the NIST website (

Table 1: NIST Priority Action Plans for Smart Grid Standards Development



Priority Action Plan




Priority Action Plan




Meter Upgradeability Standard




Role of IP in the Smart Grid




Wireless Communications for the Smart Grid




Common Price Communication Model




Common Schedule Communication Mechanism




Standard Meter Data Profiles




Common Semantic Model for Meter Data Tables




Electric Storage Interconnection Guidelines




CIM for Distribution Grid Management




Standard DR and DER Signals




Standard Energy Usage Information




Common Object Models for Electric Transportation




Mapping IEEE 1815 (DNP3) to IEC 61850 Objects




Harmonization of IEEE C37.118 with IEC 61850 and Precision Time Synchronization




Transmission and Distribution Power Systems Model Mapping




Harmonize Power Line Carrier Standards for Appliance Communications in the Home




Wind Plant Communications




Facility Smart Grid Information Standard


Facilities and the Smart Grid

Development of the Smart Grid made a decisive turn toward facilities in August 2010, when ASHRAE and the National Electrical Manufacturers Assn. (NEMA) announced they are jointly developing Standard 201P, Facility Smart Grid Information Model. According to ASHRAE, 201P will provide a common basis for electricity consumers to describe, manage, and communicate about electrical energy consumptions and forecasts. For example, real-time pricing or demand-response signals sent from utilities to customers will conform to the 201P model, allowing facilities to accept, translate, and react by rescheduling loads or reducing loads by dimming lights and resetting thermostat setpoints.

You can see from the description of 201P how other standards are needed and will come into play, such as the standards being developed by the PAPs for pricing, scheduling, and DR and DER signaling. In fact, the ASHRAE/NEMA standard committee is chaired by NIST staff scientist Steve Bushby, who also is chair of NIST PAP 17, so PAP 17 and the ASHRAE committee are tightly related.

Smart Grid planning and approaches

Because the Smart Grid standards affecting facilities have not yet been completed, it is premature to discuss exactly what they will contain and how facilities will apply them. What can be said, however, is that standards are being developed in a way that will facilitate gradual transformation of the grid. This will enable facilities owners and engineers to ramp up their participation in the Smart Grid in accordance with their business goals, comfort level, and budgets.

Table 2 is a rough hierarchy of Smart Grid approaches that engineers and owners can use to map out how they might want to gradually build up a facility’s Smart Grid capabilities. What’s apparent from the hierarchy is that many of the capabilities deemed to be applicable to the Smart Grid already exist today. For example, automated demand response is widely practiced in some states, such as California and Texas, and many facilities have been generating their own power for decades from on-site plants or from cogeneration.

The Smart Grid is bringing new goals of standardization and automation, in addition to security, privacy, and accountability. There also are regulatory barriers being dismantled, supply-side issues being resolved, and new information markets being built. These developments will usher in a new era of entrepreneurialism for technology development and energy services. Engineers will find these new Smart Grid approaches will offer tremendous benefits in their design and specification of commercial and industrial facilities.

Table 2: Hierarchy of Facility Smart Grid Involvement







1: Usage data


Install smart meter or other capability providing data on energy usage. Reporting capability should support statistical reduction, visualization, and analysis for fast and easy consideration by owners and operators.


Energy data provides basis for energy management, utility rate negotiations, and escalation of future smart-grid investments.


2: Demand response


Enable facility to accept and respond to real-time pricing signals from utility. Response can be semiautomatic (human intervention) or automatic (no human intervention). Owners will want to retain authority to respond to pricing signals. Range of response can be on/off or application of variable-speed technologies for ramping loads down and up (which is gentler on equipment). Research suggests that automated demand response is more reliable and leads to greater load reductions. Research also suggests thermostat setpoints yield the biggest bang for the buck, followed by lighting controls.


Demand response capabilities enable owners to contract with utilities for a lower rate, which reduces operating costs. Loads shifted to off-peak hours can realize additional savings from lower nighttime or weekend rates. If time-of-use rates are in effect, off-peak generation of ice for thermal storage may provide a cost-effective alternative to on-peak air conditioning operation.


3: Distributed energy resources


Facilities or campuses that have access to on-site or neighborhood power sources, such as PV, wind, microturbines, and standby gensets, cross the line from becoming “consumers” to hybrid consumer/provider. The common term for this is “microgrid.” Smart grid technologies enable owners to determine how much grid power they want to use and how much microgrid power to use or sell.



Owners can process pricing and scheduling signals from the utility in consideration of contractual obligations, fuel costs, and environmental regulations to contrive optimal mixes of demand response and supply generation.


- Mudge has worked in the buildings industry since 1975 and joined Danfoss in 2000, where he is the vice president of the HVAC sales for power electronics division. He is a member of the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) board of directors and is chairman of the AHRI VFD Product Section. 

Product of the Year
Consulting-Specifying Engineer's Product of the Year (POY) contest is the premier award for new products in the HVAC, fire, electrical, and...
40 Under Forty: Get Recognized
Consulting-Specifying Engineer magazine is dedicated to encouraging and recognizing the most talented young individuals...
MEP Giants Program
The MEP Giants program lists the top mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection engineering firms in the United States.
October 2018
Approaches to building engineering, 2018 Commissioning Giants, integrated project delivery, improving construction efficiency, an IPD primer, collaborative projects, NFPA 13 sprinkler systems.
September 2018
Power boiler control, Product of the Year, power generation,and integration and interoperability
August 2018
MEP Giants, lighting designs, circuit protection, ventilation systems, and more
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
Data Center Design
Data centers, data closets, edge and cloud computing, co-location facilities, and similar topics are among the fastest-changing in the industry.
click me