Technological and Interoperability Standards for the Future Energy Landscape

4 min read

In previous blogs, we have discussed the complex nature of what’s to come in the fluid energy environment. We also looked at the different layers of operations, and the business models behind each.

Ensuring smooth interoperability among these layers requires the establishment and adherence to numerous technical standards and codes.

Much work has been done over the previous decades to develop a standard framework towards this end, work which continues as standards are refined and updated.

Standards for Interoperability

Currently, the most important of these standards are:

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Standard 2030

“Guide for Smart Grid Interoperability of Energy Technology and Information Technology Operation with the Electric Power System (EPS), and End-Use Applications and Loads”. Published in 2011, the standard was developed in response to the explosion of innovation on the customer side of the meter, and the inconsistent and frequently conflicting connection standards between customers and local utility systems. Many “smart meters” being installed had weak cybersecurity, and utilities found themselves investing in technology that was not compatible with control systems, data standards, and the like.

Impetus behind IEEE Standard 2030

IEEE Standard 1547

“Standard for Interconnecting Distributed Resources with Electric Power Systems”. This family of standards was established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, and specifically addressed distributed energy resources, establishing criteria for interconnecting them with the electric power system. These standards were revised over the years since, culminating with the publishing of IEEE Standard 1547-2018 “Standard for Interconnection and Interoperability of Distributed Energy Resources with Associated Electric Power Systems Interfaces.” The updated standard clarifies and expands the original standard to address operation, performance, testing, safety, and maintenance in more detail.

Other important codes

  • UL 1741 is the standard under which all inverters and converters must be listed. This code aligns with IEEE 1547.1 for testing requirements
  • The comprehensive National Electric Code (NEC) is the standard building code to which all distributed power systems should adhere, including requirements for fuses, system protection, conduits, and conductors
  • Utilities also rely on ANSI C84.1, which presents guidelines related to voltage levels and the tolerances within which operators must maintain for the reliability of the electric system

There are many others which address various aspects of the electrical system in general, communications protocols, and the like. The purpose of these standards and specifications is to enable the smooth interconnection of all these supply side and demand side resources, using common interfaces and data structures. The approval of FERC Order 2222 (see previous article) calls for regional transmission operators to work with stakeholders to adapt market rules to enable smooth operations in this environment. This in turn incents refinement of standards for interconnections and data transfer to comply with these market rules.

More importantly, there will be strong financial incentives for innovation in the software/controls/data analysis space to address inefficiencies


The fluid energy landscape described above is an incredibly complex, interconnected, and dynamic system that nonetheless is vital for the operation of our modern society. No discussion is complete without mention of the threat of cyber-attack. Though initially somewhat rudimentary, recent standards and regulations have been substantially strengthened to address threats to the electric system.

Cyber Security Standards

  • The National American Energy Reliability Corporation (NERC) Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) plan set out 9 individual standards, each with its own requirements, for addressing the bulk electric system (BES). The elements of this plan span from identification of cybersecurity vulnerabilities up to incident response and data protection
  • While the NERC CIP addresses the BES, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework is applicable to organizations of any size and not limited to the BES. This voluntary standard follows the general form of the NERC CIP in its five elements of Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover
  • In 2017, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), with support of the US Department of Energy, published extensive guidance for state regulators on aspects of cybersecurity applicable to the entire electric system. NARUC urges state utility commissions to adopt the above principles and goes on to promote partnership between public and private sectors to create structures and cultures that can be effective in the current environment while flexible enough to evolve as the threat changes
  • IEEE Standard 1547, mentioned above, has a specific section (1547.3) addressing cybersecurity of DERs interconnected with the electric power system. In IEEE Transactions on Smart Grid (20 July 2020), IEEE published a paper outlining a two-stage cyber intrusion protection system, including intrusion detection using special algorithms and sophisticated graphics to map attack routes.vironment while flexible enough to evolve as the threat changes
  • Cybersecurity exercises such as GRIDEX , sponsored by NERC Electricity Information Sharing and Analysis Center (E-ISAC), enable power companies to respond to realistic cyber and other security incidents in real time, with detailed guidelines and lessons learned

The above standards, regulatory requirements, and guidelines will help to ensure protection of the network from malicious attacks but will need to be constantly updated and revised as the threat changes and grows over time

Groups such as E-ISAC (mentioned above) can keep industry informed of the latest developments in this area and countermeasures available.

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