The U.S. Federal Communications Commission recently held a field hearing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to discuss the role of the communications infrastructure in smart grid development and to gather information to help establish a national broadband strategy. Incorporating digital technologies into the grid will enable energy to be used more efficiently, increase reliability, and allow grid operators to use more alternative energy sources, according to smart grid advocates. At the hearing, panelists said that wider broadband coverage would establish a foundation for those benefits by enabling smart grid applications, such as home-energy monitoring, automatic outage alerts, and charging plug-in vehicles economically and without overworking the grid.
U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) says future economic growth is closely tied to the intersection of energy and broadband. "The smart grid is an electricity Internet," Markey says. "Without the broadband revolution, you cannot have the revolution we're talking about."
One area that needs improvement on the federal level is interoperability and standards, according to the panelists. The National Institute of Standards and Technology is currently leading an effort to establish the necessary standards for a smart grid, including cybersecurity standards and in-home communication protocols. However, the panelists said that there needs to be coordination among numerous government agencies to give new smart grid products plug-and-play capabilities.
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