"Smart grid" draft standards seen available by summer

WASHINGTON Tue Mar 3, 2009 2:05pm EST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Initial draft guidelines for the development of "smart grid" technology to modernize electricity transmission across the nation may be available by summer, a government official said on Tuesday.

"What's desperately needed is an overall road map," said Patrick Gallagher, deputy director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, in testimony at a hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Gallagher's agency has the primary task of coordinating the adoption of a framework for smart grid devices and systems. Many of the standards will be set by the private sector, but Gallagher said his agency would help coordinate that process.

He said he hopes his agency will be able to provide some draft standards for smart grid development this summer.

Smart grids utilize computers and sensors at power plants to create more efficient and less costly methods of moving electricity.

The economic stimulus package passed by Congress last month provided the Energy Department with $4.5 billion for electricity delivery and energy reliability, but Gallagher and other federal regulators at the hearing said standards should be developed to help guide these investments.

"Well-designed standards and protocols are needed to make smart grid a reality," Suedeen Kelly, a commissioner with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Kelly said guidelines must be created to address cyber security issues associated with smart grids and possibly to promote uniform software communication throughout the industry.

Also, she said the framework should allow system operators to offset inconsistent power generation from sources such as wind energy and to support the use of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Christian Wiessner)

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