Core Sector: Energy Resources and the Environment

Smart Grid / Grid Modernization

In recent years, state regulators have seen a surge in utility smart grid investments, from advanced metering infrastructure to smart appliances and distributed energy resources. In their role protecting the public interest, state regulators who oversee these utility investments seek to balance benefits and costs. One way to prudently leverage new technologies is by ensuring new components are interoperable and future-proofed. NARUC has partnered with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to educate regulators on the value of smart grid interoperability and technical standards that support it.

  • Interoperability Learning Modules
    Interoperability Learning Module series includes short videos for state utility commissions on the economics of interoperability, operational considerations for interoperability, and roles and responsibilities of state regulators. Accompanying the modules are a glossary and recommended reading.
  • Digitalization in Electric Power Systems and Regulation: A Primer, Fall 2022
    This report defines grid digitalization, provides concrete examples, and assesses five elements of digital systems that have evolved over the past three decades relevant to the electric distribution system: network interconnection, interoperability, modularity, open source, and automation. This report also discusses the benefits and challenges of digitalization and provides a set of actions regulators can take to support the transition and realize the benefits of the transition.
  • Considering Interoperability for Electric Vehicle Charging: A Commission Case Study, Fall 2022
    As adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) increases across the United States and charging equipment to power vehicles is installed, the electricity system, states, utilities, EV manufacturers, EV supply equipment (EVSE) manufacturers, and stakeholders are grappling with how to ensure smooth integration of these resources. Interoperability ensures that communication, coordination, and integration of devices, such as electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE), are integrated efficiently and effectively.
  • Benefits of Smart Grid Interoperability, August 2021
    This document summarizes the benefits of smart grid operability across seven categories and provides a hyperlinked list of additional interoperability resources from NARUC, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and national laboratories.
  • Understanding Cybersecurity for the Smart Grid: Questions for Utilities, December 2020
    This paper explores cybersecurity topics associated with the continued technology-driven evolution of the electric grid. It includes questions that PUCs might ask utilities to better understand how they are assessing and mitigating challenging new risks. Concepts in this paper draw from seminal works by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and is a complement to Understanding Cybersecurity Preparedness: Questions for Utilities, a component of NARUC’s Cybersecurity Manual.
  • Smart Grid Interoperability: Prompts for State Regulators to Engage Utilities, April 21, 2020
    As technologies proliferate across the electricity network, interoperability is increasing in importance to enable communication, coordination, and integration of more components essential to the network— some of which may not be owned by the utility. Interoperability is a means to ensure that operational network components work collaboratively and efficiently with each other. Investments that emphasize interoperability can improve reliability and security, reduce design and installation costs, and enable new services by preserving competitive innovation. This paper outlines roles, responsibilities, and actions that a state regulator may consider in its review of utility proposals for investments in smart grid technologies to ensure these investments align with good interoperability practice.
  • Evolution of the Distribution System & the Potential for Distribution-Level Markets: A Primer for State Utility Regulators, January 2018

    This paper provides an overview of the evolution of the 20th Century Electricity System and considerations for distribution-level markets and market services that states and utility companies might need. It explores how the electric industry is undergoing a shift toward a two-way power flow among the bulk electric system, the distribution system, end-users, and distributed energy resources (DERs) located both behind the meter and in front of the meter. Additionally, policy, operational, and functional considerations for distribution system planning need to be taken into account by regulators as they are embarking on grid modernization initiatives in their states. Distribution systems will need innovative approaches for system operation, grid planning, interconnection procedures, and coordination with transmission system and wholesale markets to handle higher DER penetration rates, and still remain secure and reliable.

  • Interconnection Standards Technical Assistance Workshop, Summer 2022
    In conjunction with NARUC’s Summer Policy Summit, NARUC brought together NARUC members and DOE, NREL, NIST technical experts for an interactive workshop to learn about resources, lessons learned, and support opportunities for updating DER interconnection standards. Experts demystified IEEE 1547-2018, assisted in prioritizing action steps and processes, and provided an engaging forum for members to make connections to colleagues in other states who share similar challenges and timelines. A key outcome of the workshop was a list of NARUC member “worries and challenges” related to DER interconnection, ranked by importance and priority, that NARUC has used to guide our technical assistance and education efforts in FY23.
  • Leveraging Distributed Energy Resource Capabilities through Transactive Energy, April 2022
    Transactive energy operates the electricity grid in near-real time by using value to balance and control supply and demand. Transactive energy can be implemented at the residential level, as well as commercial and industrial, in near-real time, and drive electricity peak demand savings and bill savings. In January 2022, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory released a report on how such a system might work in practice: the Distribution System Operation with Transactive (DSOP+T) Study. Additionally, pilots in the US and Europe have been successfully implemented and studied. In this webinar, experts in the industry describe the status of transactive energy. View a recording of this webinar here: Leveraging Distributed Energy Resource Capabilities through Transactive Energy.
  • Case Study on PUC Approaches to Smart Grid Interoperability and/or Cybersecurity, August 2021
    NARUC staff and consultant facilitated a five-part workshop on electric vehicle managed charging interoperability. NARUC designed the workshop series, identified and invited speakers, facilitated each session, and wrote a workshop series summary that aggregates stakeholder comments about EV interoperability. The workshop summary will inform CT PURA’s review of utility requests for proposals related to EV charging, supporting a focus on interoperability. NARUC staff and consultant delivered the workshop series summary to CT PURA and NIST on September 30, 2021. The EV Interoperability Workshop Series Summary is located at:$FILE/NARUC CT Case Study on EV Interoperability-submission.pdf.
  • Cybersecurity Training, September 2020
    NARUC staff held a cybersecurity training for utility commissioners and staff virtually1 on September 21, 22, and 23, 2020. During the training, NIST staff presented participants with NIST’s perspective on smart grid cybersecurity. 128 participants attended the event on the day NIST presented. Additionally, NARUC staff planned a second virtual cybersecurity training in early 2021 and invited NIST staff to speak to the cybersecurity framework during that event.
  • NARUC-NIST Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability Standards Regional Roundtables, Fall 2019
    NARUC and NIST jointly held four one-day regional meetings to support development of NIST’s Smart Grid Interoperability Framework version 4.0, which reflects structural changes and increasing system complexity in the grid. The roundtables gathered input from NARUC members and stakeholders (utilities, services providers, technology suppliers) on the updated Framework, as well as on regional issues that need consideration. A Summary Report is available.


NARUC is grateful to the U.S. Department of Commerce National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Join the NARUC Smart Grid ListServ to receive information on NARUC, NIST, and related events relevant to state utility commissions. View the listserv registration page to learn how.

NARUC staff experts who support these activities include:

Jeff Loiter