SAN JOSE, Calif. The concept of the smart grid took two steps closer to becoming a reality Wednesday (March 18). The IEEE formally approved a new group that will scope out standards for smart grids, and a separate set of stakeholders announced plans for a conference to guide federal investments in the area.
The IEEE officially voted to form the P2030 group which aims to write a high-level electronics guide to tomorrow's smart grid. About 40 companies have expressed interest in the effort which is planning to hold its first meeting in June in Silicon Valley.
"Right now the smart grid is a concept and everything about it is very abstract," said Dick DeBlasio, a program manager at the National Renewable Energy Lab, an arm of the U.S. Department of Energy who helped kick off P2030. "I want to go from abstract to reality with this guide," he added.
If successful, P2030 will embrace a body of standards in power engineering, communications and computing. It may spawn a number of specific efforts to define detailed specs for the grid.
For example, the effort could define common protocols for sensors and control systems and keep an eye on the fact it may be setting a model for global energy standards. Companies including Google, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and PG&E have expressed interest so far.
The chief technology officer of Bechtel Communications recently called for standards to accelerate work on smart grids. The company is pursuing a handful of projects in the area.
Separately, a dozen companies and utilities have organized a National Smart Grid Conference that will be held in Spokane, Washington April 6-7. It aims to help "develop national and regional recommendations to guide the $11-plus billion dollar federal smart grid investment."
The recently passed economic stimulus package includes an estimated $4.3 billion in spending on smart grid projects.
The event will include a keynote address from Senator Maria Cantwell (D.-Wash.), author of legislation that passed Congress in October 2008 to accelerated depreciation of smart meters and smart grid equipment. The event will also include talks from representative of the department of Energy and federal and local regulators and regional utilities.
Corporate sponsors of the conference include Arcadian Networks, Areva, Avista, Infinia, Itron, Microsoft, Patton Boggs, and Topia Technologies.