Smart Grid Information

This web page provides information and resources on several policy issues critical to the continued development of the Smart Grid, as identified in reports released by the Department of Energy’s Office of the General Counsel (links to the reports are provided below). The reports set forth policy recommendations on issues including smart meter data access and privacy, priority of service, wireless spectrum, and network reliability. Several federal advisory committees are currently working on these issues, as detailed below, and interested parties may wish to review the reports of or participate in these committees. Information on priority restoration and priority service programs available to utilities is also detailed below. Finally, links to existing Smart Grid clearinghouses and relevant Federal Communications Commission websites and reports are provided.

DOE’s goal in creating this website is to provide a helpful set of resources for interested parties. To that end, please contact us with feedback regarding this site by sending suggestions to

The original Requests for Information and public comments are available at Smart Grid RFI Public Comments and Replies.

DOE Smart Grid Reports
Following on the Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Plan recommendations on energy and the environment, in October of 2010, DOE released two reports addressing Smart Grid policy issues. These reports, summarized below, drew upon significant public participation.

Data Access and Privacy Issues Related to Smart Grid Technologies

This report examines how legal and regulatory regimes are evolving to better accommodate innovation, privacy, and data-security in the development of Smart Grid technologies that could potentially draw upon personal energy-usage data. The report surveys industry, state, and federal practices in this evolving area to alert industry leaders, state regulators, and federal policy makers to trends and practices that seem most likely to accommodate all of these values and maximize the value of Smart Grid technologies. The report discusses issues on which there is broad consensus, such as the need to educate consumers about the benefits of Smart Grid technologies, and issues on which there is not yet agreement, such as the type of data that utilities should be allowed to collect and disclose to third parties, and frames these issues for further discussion.

Communications Requirements of Smart Grid Technologies

This report addresses communications issues related to the Smart Grid, including policy recommendations to provide utilities with increased flexibility and choice in communications options.  It addresses the capability of both proprietary and commercial networks to serve the communications needs of utilities, and notes that identifying the most appropriate communications technology or network will require the consideration of a variety of factors, including the particular application in question and the location in which a technology is being deployed.

Federal Advisory Committees (FACAs)
FACAs offer an opportunity for stakeholders, including utilities, to help inform the decision-making of federal officials. They also publish reports and analyses that may be helpful to utilities in addressing issues relevant to the Smart Grid. The FACAs listed below are those that examine issues relating to telecommunications reliability, interoperability, and restoration, as well as spectrum policy.
The Department of Commerce’s Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee (CSMAC) Made up of non-federal spectrum users and tasked with providing the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) with input on spectrum policy, the work of CSMAC will be of interest to Smart Grid stakeholders considering the use of wireless spectrum to support the rollout of Smart Grid communications technologies.
The President’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (NSTAC) Made up of representatives from the communications industry and a cross-section of other industries, NSTAC provides advice and recommendations on issues related to telecommunications systems continuity in the event of an emergency or crisis, which are critical to consider in the adoption of communications technologies for use in the Smart Grid.
The FCC’s Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council (CSRIC)

Made up of representatives from public safety agencies, consumer and community organizations or other non-profit entities, and the private sector, CSRIC addresses issues of security and reliability in communications networks.

Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC)

Currently being formed by FCC as a FACA advising FCC’s Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC), PSAC will consider, among other issues, the implementation of wireless communications, one of the communications technologies used in the Smart Grid. Topics addressed will include the following:

(1) the adoption of technical and operational requirements and procedures to ensure a nationwide level of interoperability;
(2) the adoption and implementation of requirements and procedures to address operability, roaming, priority access, gateway functions and interfaces, the interconnectivity of public safety broadband networks, and other matters related to the functioning of the nationwide public safety broadband network; and,
(3) the adoption of authentication and encryption requirements for common public safety broadband applications and network use.

Priority Restoration and Priority Service Programs
The federal government has several priority communications programs in place to help ensure that critical communications services are restored as quickly as possible in the event of an emergency and that vital calls get through the network during emergencies. The two programs listed here are available to utilities.

Telecommunications Service Priority (TSP) Program

Administered by the National Communications Service (NCS), TSP enables certain telecommunications users to receive priority treatment for replacement and restoration activities. Both data and voice services are covered. Target services are those used to maintain a state of readiness or to respond to and manage any event or crisis (local, national, or international) that causes or could cause injury or harm to the population, damage to or loss of property, or degrades or threatens the national security or emergency preparedness posture of the United States. Utilities fall within the category of Public Health, Safety, & Maintenance of Law & Order (Levels 3-5).

Wireless Priority Services (WPS)

Administered by the Department of Homeland Security’s National Communications Service (NCS), WPS enables qualified emergency personnel, including key federal, state, local, and tribal government, and critical infrastructure personnel, to make phone calls during periods of high network congestion resulting from emergency disruptions. WPS is an easy-to-use, add-on feature subscribed on a per-cell phone basis. No special phones are required.

Smart Grid Clearinghouse Websites
Several government-run or government-funded clearinghouses have been developed to provide easy access to case studies, model documents, and regulations, as well as to foster the exchange of ideas between stakeholders.

A resource for information about the Smart Grid and government-sponsored Smart Grid projects, is a product of the Federal Smart Grid Task Force, which includes DOE, FERC, the Department of Commerce, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Defense, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Department of State.

Smart Grid Information Clearinghouse

Managed by and run from the Virginia Tech Advanced Research Institute in Arlington, VA, this website includes demonstration projects, use cases, standards, legislation, policy and regulation, lessons learned and best practices, as well as advanced topics dealing with research and development.

Federal Communications Commission Activities Related to the Smart Grid
The FCC is involved in setting federal policies and priorities in regard to the use of wireless spectrum and Internet functionality, both of which will be important in the continued roll out of Smart Grid technologies.

National Broadband Plan, Chapter 12 – Energy and the Environment

This chapter discusses the important role that broadband and advanced communications infrastructure will play in achieving national goals of energy independence and efficiency. 

FCC’s activities in broadband

The FCC’s latest efforts on using broadband communications technologies to modernize the electrical grid, as well as to address other issues related to energy and the environment, are detailed on the website.

Spectrum Policy for the Utility Sector
In December 2010, DOE's Office of the General Counsel hosted a seminar on the topic of spectrum policy.  Senior officials from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) provided information on spectrum policy issues in light of the role wireless communications will play in the deployment of Smart Grid technologies, including the current spectrum management process and federal programs currently available to ensure priority restoration and priority calling for utilities during times of emergency.

Spectrum Policy Seminar Presentations

Julius Knapp, Chief, Office of Engineering and Technology, FCC

Michael McKenzie, Deputy Chief, and Roger Noel, Chief, Mobility Division, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, FCC

Jennifer Manner, Deputy Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, FCC

Karl Nebbia, Associate Administrator, Office of Spectrum Management, NTIA