Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending a leadership dialogue hosted by U.S. Energy Secretary Stephen Chu and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to discuss the development of interoperability standards for a national “Smart Grid.” Along with executives from leading electric utilities, industry associations and technology firms, I offered my view on what it will take to make the country’s power grid smart, reliable and more secure.
At Microsoft, we believe the energy grid becomes “smart” by injecting software into the various control points in the grid, so that people and businesses have ready access to timely, user-friendly information that can help them make smart choices about their energy use.
We also envision a world where thousands of smart appliances can seamlessly plug into homes thanks to common standards and interoperability frameworks, just as the “plug and play” model allows thousands of devices to seamlessly plug into PCs today.
The Obama administration’s effort to develop open standards to accelerate creation of the Smart Grid is an important step and deserves praise. Current energy industry standards are a patchwork, often with several competing standards for the same interfaces. Achieving “harmonization” will be difficult and will require leadership and dedication on the part of government and business.
Secretaries Chu and Locke conveyed a clear sense of urgency at yesterday’s meeting. As industry leaders, we were urged to expedite the adoption of industry standards that are critical to develop the Smart Grid, and accelerate the standards-setting process by an order of magnitude. Meeting the administration’s ambitious goals and timetable will require an interoperability framework that balances new standards, existing standards, current best practices and lessons learned from past standards activities.
Since the technologies involved in creating the Smart Grid are at their early stages, I believe it is crucial that we establish a flexible framework that can accommodate constant change and innovation as technologies evolve. Web services and Internet protocols for connectivity and security are, in general, the right technological approach, as the industry has deep experience with web services and interoperability based on them and they are inherently extensible.
Normal standards-setting processes can take several years to create a well conceived specification, so we fully support the National Institutes of Standards and Technology effort to develop Smart Grid standards on an accelerated timetable. Through our own work, and by engaging our utility customers as well as our extensive partner community, we hope to help expedite creation of the interoperability standards that the Smart Grid will be built upon.
Microsoft shares the Obama administration’s commitment to make the Smart Grid a reality. We look forward to actively working with the administration to speed the nation towards a more efficient, flexible power grid that will help fulfill the promise of sustainable energy.