Taking a step closer to ensuring that new electrical devices will be ready to plug into the nation's next-generation power grid, the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) recently outlined the process by which test laboratories and certifying organizations are accredited for evaluation of smart-grid products.

This update to the Interoperability Process Reference Manual is a major step forward from the manual's 1.0 version of last year, according to Rik Drummond, chair of the SGIP's Testing and Certification Committee.

Smart Grid technologies aim to transform the nation's aging electric power system into a network that integrates modern communication technologies with the power-delivery infrastructure. These changes will enable two-way flows of energy, communication and control capabilities.

To render the countless devices that connect to the grid fully interoperable, hundreds of new standards are under development by the SGIP membership. Electrical devices — from the largest power generator to the smallest household appliance — will need to adhere to these standards if they are to function as desired. Drummond says accredited testing labs and certification bodies are vital for ensuring broad interoperability and speeding the implementation of the Smart Grid.

Having interoperability standards in place is only a first step. To ensure that products bought by consumers will work as advertised, trusted accreditation organizations evaluate the procedures used by testing laboratories. The IPRM v2.0 outlines the process these objective third parties should follow to accredit a testing and certification lab, as well as what the labs themselves must do to test products.