Grid modernization and digitization are driving utilities to move beyond legacy narrowband communications to advanced private broadband solutions. Earlier this year, I was asked to help launch a new grassroots movement specifically focused on utility private broadband needs and challenges. Launched at Distributech, the Utility Broadband Alliance (UBBA) aims to assist its members in planning, designing and deploying secure, reliable and resilient private broadband networks to support America’s transforming critical infrastructure.
Utilities globally are either planning or is in the midst of some grid modernization project. They’re all moving in the direction of trying to figure out how to bring in renewable generation. Adding renewables into the grid presents numerous technical and operational challenges. There’s a focus on minimizing outages and dealing with the increasingly extreme storms, hurricanes and the flooding that are coming in and putting a huge strain on utilities.
Utilities have several goals around minimizing outages, getting power restored quickly and, of course, safety is expanding. Broadband enables all those different applications that are increasing efficiency where we see wasted energy – things like volt/VAR optimization, fault location and system restoration. That’s where broadband comes into play; it’s going to unlock applications to be able to truly modernize the grid.
The other key thing that broadband enables is a variety of video applications, even virtual reality (VR). All of those are fairly bandwidth heavy and we want to be able to have video in the field – and send it back to dispatch or an operation center. That requires a lot of bandwidth and LTE is a great technology for that.
The Utility Broadband Alliance is open to a variety of energy, technology and communications organizations looking to increase the security, reliability and resilience of electrical grids with private broadband networks, including:
Electric, Gas and Water Utilities