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 Wednesday, 12 May 2010
Technology will bring much needed efficiency and flexibility to electricity distribution

Geneva, 12 May 2010 - Some of the world’s biggest ICT companies have tasked a new ITU group with identifying standards needs for the world’s new Smart Grid deployments, which will bring the benefits of digital technology to the existing electricity network.

ITU was asked by key CTOs to accelerate work in the area of Smart Grid at a meeting of high level industry executives in Geneva in October 2009. Agreement between a wider set of ITU members to push forward work in this area was reached at a January 2010 meeting of the Telecommunication Standardization Advisory Group (TSAG).

“While work has been taking place in ITU-T Study Groups on this topic for some time, there was a need to engage with a wider community,” said Malcolm Johnson, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau. "In this case, the Focus Group allows access to all stakeholders and in particular a key part of the Smart Grid equation — the electricity companies themselves.”

Les Brown (Lantiq), who will Chair the new Focus Group, agreed. "Through this excellent initiative ITU is bringing all players together in an environment where they can create truly global specifications for the service-aware utilities network of tomorrow. Smart Grid is a dynamic addition to today’s energy networks, which will be capable of delivering customizable services on a massive scale; to ensure an efficient global rollout, global standards are a must.”

The Smart Grid will consist of solutions based on both current and future telecommunication technologies for command and control, metering, and charging. ITU’s new Focus Group will explore these requirements and corresponding standards needs. Further, the idea that Smart Grid principles could apply to the telecommunication system itself could be a topic for discussion.

According to a study by ABI Research, the number of smart electric meters deployed worldwide will rise from a 2009 level of 76 million to reach about 212 million in 2014.

Many governments have earmarked significant portions of their stimulus packages for Smart Grids. In the United States, for example, the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act has allocated USD 4.5 billion for investments in the Smart Grid. In Europe, the European Parliament has approved an agreement reached by the EU Institutions on a package of legislation to liberalize energy markets, including electricity and gas directives, which require EU member states to ‘ensure the implementation of intelligent metering systems’.

The Focus Group on Smart Grid will survey existing national standards initiatives to see whether these can be adopted at an international level, and will also perform a gap analysis to identify new standardization requirements that will then be taken forward by relevant ITU-T Study Groups. This exploratory phase will be relatively short before work starts on the development of the standards necessary to support the global rollout of Smart Grid technologies.

In the field of Smart Grids, ITU experts have already agreed on specifications for Smart Grid products for home networks. The specifications include a ‘low complexity’ profile that will allow multiple manufacturers to develop products that deliver the low power consumption, low cost, performance, reliability, and security that is required for Smart Grid and other lower bit rate applications.

Members of HomeGrid Forum, an independent body set up to promote ITU-T’s home networking standard,, are active participants in Smart Grid standardization efforts worldwide, including those led by NIST, IEEE, ISO/IEC, and SAE. In 2009, HomeGrid Forum formed a Smart Grid initiative group, which will help to bring a range of devices to the Smart Grid market and home energy management applications.

George Arnold, National Coordinator for Smart Grid Interoperability at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the United States: “We recognize the importance of international standards to the success of the smart grid — therefore we look forward to coordinating with this Focus Group on defining the scope of ITU-T work related to the smart grid.”

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