How Broadband Helps Smart Grid according to FCC

It is often said that smart grid is the power grid superimposed on information and communications technology (ICT). To support smart grid, it is imperative that communications be improved and used for smart grid.

At ConnectivityWeek several weeks ago, a representative from the Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) explained that their broadband plan includes a section on energy and the environment. More specifically, it considers smart grid from the communications perspective. The entire plan can be downloaded from here.

Chapter 12 (pp. 245–262) of the plan contains a section on how communications and broadband can help smart grid.

The entire plan is 376 pages long; I will only discuss chapter 12, which relates to the theme of my blog.

Chapter 12 has four subsections:

  • Section 12.1 discusses how smart grid is implemented and reinforced with the application of broadband communications technologies. It gives a good overview of smart grid 101. If you want to get a glimpse of what smart grid is, especially from the communications perspective, this is a good section to read.

It recommends:

  1. Enhancing the communications infrastructure.
  2. Using commercial service providers (who are often considered not reliable enough for this crucial infrastructure).
  3. Strengthening communications security.
  4. Opening up the 700 MHz Public Safety Band for utilities to use.
  5. Further opening up the Public Safety spectrum for smart grid.
  6. Studying the requirements of utilities for smart grid.
  • Section 12.2 covers home and building aspects of smart grid from the communications point of view. Smart meters installed at homes and other buildings would make power consumption information readily available for utilities and consumers. This section recommends:
  1. Mandating utilities to provide consumers’ use data and maintain the privacy of this data at the state level.
  2. Doing the same for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
  3. Doing the same for the Department of Energy.
  4. That the Rural Utilities Service provide loans to rural utilities to implement smart grid in rural areas of the United States.
  • Section 12.3 considers ICT as a whole in regard to power consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. It discusses PCs as well as data centers. This section recommends that:
  1. The FCC start working on the communication industry’s energy efficiency and environmental impacts.
  2. The federal government start working on the energy efficiency of data centers.
  • Section 12.4 is about smart transportation. Since this is a report on broadband, rather than electric vehicles (EVs), this section is about how smart communications technologies can help reduce gas consumption by providing appropriate information, such as how to reroute to avoid traffic congestion.
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Making Large UPS Systems More Efficient
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If you have time to read the entire report, it would certainly help you grasp what the FCC is considering in the way of improving the nation’s communications infrastructure. But if you are daunted by the length, chapter 12 alone would give you a good glimpse of how ICT could benefit smart grid. I have not seen any article or report discussing smart grid from the communications perspective before.

By the way, my friend in Saratoga, CA (which is pretty affluent), still complains of the lack of broadband services to his city. Saratoga is the community next to mine, but we have a choice of DSL and cable. My friend often tweets and expresses his opinion on the sad status of broadband services in the U.S. I just cannot imagine that that status is caused by the lack of technologies. It must be something to do with policies and politics. But it must be frustrating not to have broadband services at home.

I can relate to the frustration. Incidentally, my wireless router is acting up and drops the Internet connection sporadically. When I am not at home to fix it (cycle the power?), my wife gets angrier by the day. It is about time for me to consider a new router with 802.11n, which is somewhat pricey compared with the one with 802.11g. But again, this is a good excuse for me to purchase one.

Zen Kishimoto

About Zen Kishimoto

Seasoned research and technology executive with various functional expertise, including roles in analyst, writer, CTO, VP Engineering, general management, sales, and marketing in diverse high-tech and cleantech industry segments, including software, mobile embedded systems, Web technologies, and networking. Current focus and expertise are in the area of the IT application to energy, such as smart grid, green IT, building/data center energy efficiency, and cloud computing.

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