Very early on, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recognized the direct, cause-and-effect linkages among consensus-based standards development, seamless interoperability across the interstate electricity grid and the historic, far-ranging potential benefits of the Smart Grid:

  • By enabling two-way power flow and communications and control, the Smart Grid could bring about revolutionary changes such as enabling users to more cost-effectively manage their power consumption, lessening environmental impact, creating new business models and strengthening profiles of service reliability and availability.
  • Interoperability would be essential to bringing about that vision because both old and new, multi-vendor technologies, systems and devices of disparate utilities would need to securely and cost-efficiently communicate with one other across traditional jurisdictions and borders.
  • Development of interconnection and interoperability standards would need to be accelerated because, while most of the Smart Grid’s enabling technologies already exist, connecting those dots seamlessly from point of generation to consumption is new ground. 

In order to throw such a chain of events into motion, the DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability charged engineers with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to jumpstart and shepherd the needed standards work. That led to an unprecedented collaborative effort that brought together communications, information technology (IT) and power engineers. Fueled by DOE and NREL support, the IEEE P2030 Working Group launched in May 2009.

In September 2011, the IEEE 2030 “IEEE Guide for Smart Grid Interoperability of Energy Technology and Information Technology Operation with the Electric Power System (EPS), End-Use Applications, and Loads” was approved and published, establishing first system-of-systems, foundational standard in the world that was created from scratch to define Smart Grid interconnection and interoperability. Supporting the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST’s) framework of Smart Grid interoperability standards through the U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007, IEEE 2030 maps the interfaces of data exchange among Smart Grid elements, loads and end-use applications.

In the wake of the base standard’s ratification, the IEEE 2030 effort has mushroomed into a family of application-specific standards projects— IEEE P2030.1TM  Guide for Electric-Sourced Transportation Infrastructure, IEEE P2030.2TM  Guide for the Interoperability of Energy Storage Systems Integrated with the Electric Power Infrastructure, IEEE P2030.3TM Standard for Test Procedures for Electric Energy Storage Equipment and Systems for Electric Power Systems Applications, etc.—that extend the impact of DOE and NREL’s original support.

Successful U.S. government involvement in standards development is, of course, not limited to the IEEE 2030 series. In fact, NREL’s work in research, testing and standards development for distributed, renewable sources of energy dates back to 1979. That year, NREL (formerly SERI) founded IEEE Standards Coordinating Committee 21 (SCC21), eventually leading to publication of IEEE 1547™ Standard for Interconnecting Distributed Resources with Electric Power Systems. Approved by the IEEE Standards Board in June 2003, IEEE 1547 in the years since has informed federal legislation and rule making, the deliberations of state regulatory bodies and the creation of utilities’ interconnection agreements.

Today, questions are arising about the value of government involvement in standards development. Indeed, the return on government investment is proven and quantifiable. In the effort to produce IEEE 1547, for example, every dollar of government investment was matched multiple times over by industry in expenditure on sending hundreds of professionals to meetings.

Government’s involvement in standards development has definitively advanced interconnection and interoperability education and aided technology transfer in the evolution of the power grid. With the global race toward the Smart Grid rapidly intensifying, now is hardly the time to lift our foot off the gas.


In addition to his role as chair of the IEEE 2030 Working Group, Dick DeBlasio is a member of the IEEE Standards Association Board of Governors and chief engineer with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.