While California regulators continue to hammer out details of the state’s “smart grid,” federal regulators are beginning to add their agency’s input into the foundation’s edifice. The Federal Communications Commission is the latest regulator to partake in the exploration of broadband technologies to facilitate advanced meters, transmission for renewable power, and plug-in vehicles. The FCC now has “national priorities beyond the traditional communications realm,” said Mignon Clyburn, FCC commissioner, in an August 25 hearing. “The first stop is the smart grid and accommodating renewable power as part of the generation mix.” No action was taken at the hearing. Commissioners and staff instead mostly gathered private company executives to advise them on how broadband communications may or may not help a national smart grid. “The need for standards is urgent,” said Dean Pruchaska, National Institute of Standards & Technology national coordinator for smart grid conformance. In order to accelerate smart grid standards for communications interoperability, the organization began a three-phase plan. In the first phase, Pruchaska said, the group is honing in on the right set of standards among the protocols that exist. Next, those standards would be vetted by a public/private panel. Finally the organization would test and certify the standards. In California, interoperability between utilities’ smart meters, for instance, is still in question. Using standard broadband technologies could be a cost saver, said Eric Miller, senior vice president of Redwood City-based Solutions Trilliant. “We can take advantage that utilities don’t move around [like cellular phones],” he said. “That provides a much greater capacity at a fraction of the cost.” Collecting data from advanced meters could be a relatively easy operation, according to Mark Dudzinski, GE Energy chief managing officer. The difficult part is using broadband technology to integrate a million solar roofs and renewable energy sources that are intermittent in nature. Another complicated issue for using broadband is plug-in cars. In some utility territories, plug-ins could be the most efficient if they charged at the wee hours of the night when only baseload plants that cannot be ramped up or down are manufacturing electricity--electricity that might otherwise go to waste. In other territories, the more efficient times may be on the shoulder periods--after peak use, but before power facilities are ramped down for the night, according to Joby Lafky, Gridpoint program manager. Communications technologies could be set so that in a particular grid territory vehicles could receive signals while in the garage telling them when to charge up for the next trip.