IEEE - Leadership in the Smart Grid

by Erich W. Gunther, EnerNex
Corporation, Member at Large, IEEE PES Governing Board

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and especially the Power and Energy Society (PES), is taking an aggressive and multi-faceted role in advancing what the industry now refers to as the Smart Grid.  In May of 2009, the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) announced the approval of project 2030 to develop a “Guide for Smart Grid Interoperability of Energy Technology and Information Technology Operation with the Electric Power System (EPS) and End-Use Applications and Loads”.  Whew, what a title!  This effort has been high publicized but what most people do not know is that this effort is but one of a long history of IEEE involvement in the smart grid.  We recently surveyed the existing inventory of IEEE standards and approved projects and at last count found that there are 65 approved and active IEEE standards related to the smart grid and another 35 under development - (

The fact that the IEEE has been a leader in grid automation and modernization comes as no surprise to those IEEE-PES members working for years to develop standards in this area.  In fact, one of the side effects of this has been the unfortunate creation of a negative attitude among some long time contributors to ignore the smart grid movement who see it as merely a branding and marketing ploy.  They correctly point out that power engineering professionals have been actively applying information technology to electric power system infrastructure for more than two decades.

I argue that rather than being bitter about our industry, expertise, and contributions being substantially ignored for so long, we instead embrace the attention, visibility, political and economic support to accelerate the process of grid modernization and standardization.  It is good for society, it is good for the grid, it is good for the electric power engineering profession.  Bottom line – “Get over it!”

Ok, let me come down off my soapbox and provide an update on recent activities in the smart grid and how you can become more involved.  First, the working groups of the IEEE are the first place to go and play a major role in developing IEEE standards.  Many of you are already doing this.  If you are interested in smart grid specific standards, focus on those 35 approved projects listed on the web site I noted above.

The traditional IEEE working groups are not the only place where the IEEE is active.  Many of you may be aware of the mandate the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has been given by the US Congress in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) to develop a smart grid interoperability roadmap ( 

The IEEE was identified along with other entities as a key organization to coordinate with in developing that roadmap.  In 2009, NIST awarded a contract to EnerNex Corporation to assist NIST in carrying out its obligation to Congress and to form the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) and its governance board.  EnerNex won the bid with IEEE-PES, IEEE-SA, the UCA International Users Group (UCAIug), and Clasma Events as partners and key subcontractors.  IEEE-SA and IEEE-PES staff have been directly involved in developing the governance model of the SGIP and providing additional support to NIST.

IEEE members and working groups have taken an active role in the NIST process and the SGIP by participating in several of the Priority Action Plan (PAP) teams and Domain Expert Working Groups (DEWG’s).  This is especially true for the PAP’s focused on wired and wireless communications using Internet related protocols and technologies.

To facilitate technology transfer and building the awareness of IEEE smart grid activities, the IEEE recently launched a new web site – - to provide a focal point for smart grid news, information, and support.  This site will be closely coordinated and linked with other major smart grid sites including the DOE Smart Grid Clearinghouse and the NIST Interoperability Knowledge Base (IKB) now under development – both of which the IEEE is part of as a project partner and subcontractor.

The IEEE is also doing several other things to facilitate awareness, technology transfer, and standards acceleration.  The first is within the governance of the IEEE itself.  At the IEEE level, the New Technology Directions Committee (NTDC) has appointed Wanda Reeder – immediate IEEE-PES Past President – as the chair of its Smart Grid coordination group.  This group is facilitating coordination between the other IEEE societies with a role in the smart grid (e.g. communications, computer, signal processing, power electronic, etc.) and has a lead role in developing the smart grid web site I mentioned earlier.

Within the IEEE-PES, coordination is being achieved through several means.  Two years ago, the PES technical council approved the creation of the Intelligent Grid Coordinating Committee (IGCC) which evolved from what was originally the intelligent grid interest group and then the intelligent grid subcommittee under T&D before its elevation to its own committee – all of this happening long before smart grid was fashionable.  We have successfully avoided the temptation to change the name to smart grid coordination committee!  Don Von Dollen from EPRI is the chairman and I am his vice-chair.

In recognition of the need for ongoing support and advice on smart grid activities to the PES governing board, they recently created an at large position for smart grid for which I am honored to be the first holder of that seat.  In support of that role I recently visited many working group, subcommittee, and committee meetings at the recent PES Joint Technical Meeting in Orlando.  Al Rotz, the incoming PES president, accompanied me to reinforce the message that the IEEE PES is taking an active role in mobilizing the PES membership to actively support grid modernization through the evolution and development of smart grid related standards.  We encouraged the membership to participate in the NIST SGIP efforts and look for opportunities for the IEEE to apply its expertise and standards to accelerate the standards development process.

A major aspect of the NIST effort is to accelerate greatly the standards development process. Standards groups have been criticized for taking many years to develop standards.  That isn’t fast enough to support the fast changing world of smart grid where billions of dollars are being spent now on assets that may become stranded if they do not implement interoperable standards.  We have seen the IEEE Communications Society move very quickly when necessary to produce a key standard to support mass markets (think 802.11a,b,g – WiFi) and NEMA produce a metering firmware upgrade standard in 90 days when asked to do so by NIST.  Creating a mindset and process to fast track key standards development is a difficult challenge, but one that we must accept and accomplish. To that end, a new PAR was recently approved (P1815) and a working group formed to adopt and publish the DNP3 protocol as an IEEE standard.  This project is being used to demonstrate that the IEEE-PES can create a standard in less than six months. 

This is a unique point in history for the electric power engineering profession.  Our discipline is being recognized for its critical role in maintaining, developing, and transforming our most critical infrastructure upon which all others depend.  We are able to implement new systems based on ideas, concepts, technologies that we may have thought of decades ago but now with adequate funding, political support, and a customer base hungry for solutions that empower them to control their energy footprint associated costs. The IEEE is facilitating this once in a lifetime transformation of our electric power infrastructure.  I suggest that we embrace the opportunity and make the most of it.

BeijingSifang June 2016