White House, NIST launch online forum to collect public input on smart grid

As part of Obama's open government initiative, the public can provide comments in a blog about how their personal energy use is sent over the advanced electric grid.

The White House launched on Tuesday an online forum to collect feedback from the public on deploying a consumer interface for the smart power grid as part of the Obama administration's open government initiative.

The Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Institute of Standards and Technology created the Web site to encourage the public to discuss and submit ideas for the smart grid, a modernized distribution system that monitors home energy use as a way to save energy.

The discussion, which follows a blog format, seeks comments on three issues: the architecture of the system, who has access to and ownership of energy consumption data, and standards for consumer appliances and other devices that will transmit energy data over the smart grid. Between Feb. 23 and March 12 users can register to provide feedback on the Smart Grid Forum or they can e-mail responses to smartgrid@ostp.gov, and the comments will be posted online.

The first blog post by George Arnold, national coordinator for smart grid interoperability, got the ball rolling with questions on the architecture of the smart grid. "Should the smart meter serve as the primary gateway for residential energy usage data, price data, and demand response signals?" he said in his blog post.

NIST officials will moderate the forum and review comments and interactions at least hourly, said NIST spokesman Mark Bello.

"Forum moderators will respond to questions, but we hope that others outside of the government also will interact and, in the process, inform and enliven the discussion as well," he said. To ensure a two-way conversation, the site will alert other experts to provide input if a broader response is needed.

An announcement about the online discussion was published in the Federal Register on Feb. 19. Other agencies that have a role and interest in the development of the smart grid notified their stakeholders about the forum.