Attempts to move from developing baseline federal \u201csmart grid\u201d standards to putting them into effect via regulations has snagged on lack of consensus. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) asked federal regulators Jan. 31 to establish rules based on proposed cybersecurity, interoperability, and three other standards developed by working groups. Their aim is to align systems, ensure openness, and protect utility systems as California and the rest of the country transition to a digitized grid. NIST raised concerns that billions of dollars are being spent to move towards a power system that allows wireless two-way communication between the utilities and customers but many utility systems will be incompatible, George Arnold, NIST national coordinator for smart grid interoperability standards, told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. During a smart grid technical conference, he urged that standards not be left to the market. The standards under development are the first of their kind. Key issues are the degree of consensus, openness, costs involved, and timeliness. There must be a move away from proprietary systems to open ones and a \u201cmove away from security by obscurity,\u201d Arnold insisted. Some utility smart grid components, including smart meters, like those used by Pacific Gas & Electric, are proprietary. Cybersecurity and smart grid experts said Monday that agreement was lacking on the five foundational standards and that they needed more fine-tuning. Darren Highfill, UtiliSec founder, called the proposed standards \u201chighly prescriptive,\u201d and ones that would \u201cbind utilities to a frozen snapshot.\u201d A major challenge is developing standards that keep pace with the quickly evolving smart grid technical components. There was agreement that the standards process should continue. \u201cWe need to keep the pressure on to ensure they will be adopted in the proper form,\u201d said Frances Cleveland, Xanthus Consulting principal. Utility representatives suggested adopting voluntary, not mandatory, smart grid rules. FERC identified key priorities for smart grid standards development, which include cybersecurity, interoperability, and certain smart grid functions in July 2009. The day after FERC\u2019s smart grid technical conference, the Department of Energy announced it plans to develop, with NIST, a cybersecurity initiative focused on the electric grid. \u201cWe recognize that each utility faces different risks; now we need to provide them with standard, adaptable solutions to manage those risks,\u201d stated DOE Assistant Secretary Patricia Hoffman. The DOE\u2019s cybersecurity effort is separate from the standards under development that were the subject of FERC\u2019 s Jan. 31 conference, a NIST spokesperson told Current. The close timing was a \u201ccoincident,\u201d he added.