Following a program announcement by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association in February, NEMA Assistant Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Special Projects Paul Molitor unveiled the association’s Smart Grid Interoperable & Conformant (SGIC) testing scheme at the World Meter Design Congress in April.

Molitor is the former secretary of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP).

In his remarks, he contrasted a safety failure, such as the recent nuclear power incident in Japan, with an interoperability failure, such as the blackout in the northeastern U.S. and Canada in August 2003.

“The major event that started the blackout was a power line downed by a thunderstorm in Ohio,” Molitor said. “The cascading nature of the failures, as the outage spread east to the utility companies along the eastern seaboard in the U.S. and north into the province of Ontario in Canada, is emblematic of an interoperability failure.”

The SGIC program includes a management scheme for testing practices that is designed to be compatible with both existing global requirements placed on testing bodies by the Geneva-based International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and SGIP, a public-private partnership created by NIST to advance Smart Grid in the U.S.

With the scheme in place, manufacturers, utility companies, and test laboratories will come together under NEMA’s management to identify points of interoperability in Smart Grid standards, and design test specifications that make sense to all parties.

For each of these stakeholders, SGIC accomplishes specific goals:

Utilities

  • meets demands for trusted equipment to fulfill interoperable business needs
  • strengthens confidence to invest in plans that expand customer understanding and energy-saving capacity

Government

  • meets government’s objective of ubiquitous access
  • ensures quality electrical service across the board

Manufacturers

  • promotes confidence for industry to build products that will be accepted in the market
  • ensures industry regulation and oversight of manufactured products

Consumers

  • ensures that there are universal standards that provide ubiquitous access for Smart Grid applications
  • allows for “plug-and-play” experiences with products