The Birth of the SGIP (Live from Denver)

In a short while, an important vote will be taken in downtown Denver, Colorado.  If as expected that vote is in the affirmative, a unique and important public-private partnership will spring into being.  It will also have an extremely ambitious goal: to assess, assemble, explain and promote the complex and evolving web of standards that will be needed to make the vision of a Smart Grid in the United States a reality.  It will also mark the end of the first chapter in a journey that began with the passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

What is a Smart Grid, compared to what we have now?  Today, we have centralized  production of electricity, with distribution of that power being handled by somewhat interconnected, regional networks to commercial and home users.  We also have burgeoning green house gas emissions, growing dependence on foreign oil, both as a result of our need to keep increasing our generating capacity in order to meet whatever the peak national electrical need may be.

With a Smart Grid, the production, storage and use of electricity will be interactive, with millions of home and business owned wind and solar power generating nodes, as well as millions of highly distributed battery storage resources – in the form of millions of electric, and electric/hybrid cars parked in home garages.

When you add all that together, you have a massive, load-leveling pool of energy producers and consumers, rather than just a one way distribution street.  The individual nodes in this new web of production and consumption will therefore be sellers as well as buyers, and intelligent ones as well, able to centrally turn on and turn off (for example) home appliances, air conditioning and heating to time the market.  When they interact with the grid, they will therefore be able to sell at the peak, and buy at the dip – which will also level off the constant costs of power.

That’s going to take a whole lot of standards, of a bewildering array: smart metering standards, interface standards, ecommerce standards, and much, much more.  I dedicated an issue of  Standards Today to the topic a few months ago, and you can read much more about the challenges of building the Smart Grid in that issue.

And that’s where the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel comes in.

These local production and storage units, however, will not be operating all of the time – or even reliably, other than on a gross, statistical basis.  As a result, the grid will need vastly intelligent controls, to estimate and distribute capacity and demand.  In other words, all of these nodal and centralized elements will need to be linked together and operate interactively as a very, very Smart Grid indeed.  When they do, gross production capacity of power should decrease, allowing the most polluting power generation facilities to be shut down, and an increasingly large percentage of total power generation to comprise green, rather than hydrocarbon based production sources.

The SGIP’s goal is to help make all that happen, and in a few minutes the Charter and Bylaws for that organization will be approved by a vote of the more than 200 initial Participating Members that will help launch and staff the efforts, together with leadership from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the outside contractor, Enernex Corporation, that will provide the administrative and technical support to keep things moving forward.

On Wednesday, the Participants will take a second vote: to elect the inaugural Governing Board of 27 members that will guide its efforts on behalf of all classes of stakeholders – 22 to be precise, at least as they have been grouped for voting purposes. 

I’m running for a Governing Board seat in Category 13, which will represent the interests of Professional societies, users groups, trade associations and industry consortia.  My candidate page is here, and if you have a genuine interest in becoming part of the SGIP’s important work, you can become a member by filling out the one page application you can find at the link in the blue box on the right side of this Web page, and emailing it in to the SGIP Administrator.  If you do so before the end of the day on Wednesday, November 17, you can even cast your vote for me.

I’ll be attending the Grid Interop conference today through Thursday (they were kind enough to give me a press pass), which serves as the venue for the SGIP launch, and will blog on the conference, as well as the voting outcomes, as events unfold, so stay tuned.

Updated:  The Charter and Bylaws of the SGIP were announced as approved at 3:40 PM, MST.  The vote was 133 in favor and 6 against, with 53.1% of eligible members casting a vote.

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