US National Broadband Plan

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The US National Broadband Plan updated regularly at broadband.gov specifies clear roles for US agencies (US FCC, US NIST, US NTIA, US FERC, US DoE) and North American bodies especially NERC and the IEEE that affect the communications and critical infrastructure of the smart grid. The AU National Broadband Plan is a parallel plan for Australia.

By contrast to NB Power and Nova Scotia Power and other Atlantic Canadian utilities, US plans are very clear about the interdependence of energy and communications strategy [1]. The NS Department of Energy April 2010 NS Renewable Electricity Plan for instance mentions the role of demand side management but omits resilient community benefits in its short section on "smart technologies" and completely ignores the impact of electric vehicle charging and ground source heat pumping on the power grid. The US plan by contrast on page 250 (chapter 12) shows implications of electric car charging timing on peak load. The few NB sources are even worse. The US National Broadband Plan and other US sources including the Smart Grid News and the Oracle AMI technology offerings are far more accurate about the data transfer and privacy requirements of the smart grid, and NIST and IEEE have taken on the role of standardizing these technologies for the NERC. The US RUS addresses problems of rural utilities in particular and ensures that universal service reaches these.

Accordingly, no Canadian initiative can or should proceed without reference to these goals and standards.

You can compare NB provincial party policies on information and communication technology (ICT) and compare NB provincial party policies on NB Power also.

key goal: 'track and manage' real-time energy consumption[edit]

Demand side management is a major goal of the US national broadband plan:

"Goal 6: To ensure that America leads in the clean energy economy, every American should be able to use broadband to track and manage their real-time energy consumption."

See recommendation 12.7 below for how this is to be achieved.

Chapter 12: energy and environment recommendations[edit]

The US National Broadband Plan devotes an entire chapter (chapter 12) to how energy and communications needs mesh and how rural broadband in particular is central to the energy planning. As US consumers will have the right to use any third party service to monitor their energy use, it will in practice not be simply a question of consumers making manual changes to their habits without help, as for instance NS plans suggest. It's misleading and wrong to imply that consumers will not get help with this significant change of usage patterns. The US plan outlines several key recommendations specific to chapter 12:

recommendation 12.1: FCC should explore resilience of commercial networks[edit]

"As outlined in Chapter 16, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC ) should start a proceeding to explore the reliability and resiliency of commercial broadband communications networks." These become, under this plan, part of critical infrastructure, so government must map outages and reliability and other problems.

recommendation 12.2: states should reduce impediments to utilities using commercial networks[edit]

"States should reduce impediments and financial disincentives to using commercial service providers for Smart Grid communications." This has been less of an issue in for instance NB where NB Power smart grid support was deployed by Aliant. However, without strong standards to avoid abuse of these relationships it's likely that commercial providers could exercise "vendor lock-in" to restrict upgrading or competition.

recommendation 12.3: NERC clarify CIP requirements[edit]

"The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) should clarify its Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP ) security requirements." Including encryption, authentication, bonding and insurance provisions for third parties offering services to customers and reading/relying on their meter data stream.

Canadian regulators have no real option other than to deploy the identical systems - the experience with the badly run Ontario AMI program and the warnings found in the Oracle AMI literature, notably about "problems with bottom-up design" of such systems with metering needs only considered (without the advanced applications, etc.), suggest. The Oracle strategic metering whitepaper, 2008) lists several major errors:

  • using meters that process raw data and return only aggregate numbers, useless to help customers manage their usage
  • storing raw data in a billing system and then purging it after 90 days due to totally incompetent archive planning
  • storing data in forms useless to grid analysts or portfolio reporting requirements or mobile workforce enabling, fault detection and maintenance, and other major needs, resulting in deaths and outages
  • falling victim to unplanned, overlapping and contradicting separate applications that all impose different requirements on the underlying meter infrastructure

All this against a backdrop of general incompetence in computer security amongst North American utilities. For these reasons the CIP requirements specified in ANSI C.12 and the NIST smart grid standards are a mandatory part of all US national plans.

recommendation 12.4: let utilities use the public safety 700 MHz network[edit]

"Congress should consider amending the Communications Act to enable utilities to use the proposed public safety 700MHz wireless broadband network", not just the official first responder agencies. Among other arguments, power outages create emergency response requirements that load down agencies that should deal with more urgent cases.

recommendation 12.5: NTIA and FCC should consider grid use of spectrum[edit]

"The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA ) and the FCC should continue their joint efforts to identify new uses for federal spectrum and should consider the requirements of the Smart Grid." In Canada the CRTC has been disqualified by the Supreme Court of Canada from regulating power pole access but retains coverage of spectrum, leaving provinces largely responsible for the gap, but use of wireless spectrum remains under CRTC jurisdiction - quite a dilemma that can probably only be resolved by slavishly adopting US spectrum allocations.

recommendation 12.6: DoE and FCC study communications requirements[edit]

"The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE ), in collaboration with the FCC , should study the communications requirements of electric utilities to inform Federal Smart Grid policy."

recommendation 12.7: states should require utilities to give consumers data[edit]

"States should require electric utilities to provide consumers access to, and control of, their own digital energy information, including real-time information from smart meters and historical consumption, price and bill data over the Internet. If states fail to develop reasonable policies over the next 18 months, Congress should consider national legislation to cover consumer privacy and the accessibility of energy data."

In Canada provincial agencies that fail could likewise be forced by federal agencies to comply with the NIST smart grid standards, Canadian privacy law and so on.

recommendation 12.8: FERC should adopt digital data and control standards[edit]

"The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC ) should adopt consumer digital data accessibility and control standards as a model for the states." This would help to deal with a general lack of privacy law in the US, which is less of an issue in Canada.

recommendation 12.9: consumer data accessibility policies affect grants, reporting[edit]

"DOE should consider consumer data accessibility policies when evaluating Smart Grid grant applications, report on states’ progress toward enacting consumer data accessibility, and develop best practices guidance for states." See power grid best practice for a summary of these and related practices.

recommendation 12.10: US RUS should help rural cooperatives with good policies[edit]

"The Rural Utilities Service (RUS ) should make Smart Grid loans to [[rural electric cooperative]]s a priority, including integrated Smart Grid broadband projects. RUS should favor Smart Grid projects from states and utilities with strong consumer data accessibility policies." See rural BPL for one technological proposal for this.

recommendation 12.11: US FCC should improve efficiency of communications industry[edit]

"The FCC should start a proceeding to improve the energy efficiency and environmental impact of the communications industry.". Specifically, a "Notice of Inquiry to study how the communications industry could improve its energy efficiency and environmental impact. This proceeding should examine such topics as data center energy efficiency, the use of renewable power for communications networks and the steps that communications companies can take to reduce their carbon emissions. The proceeding should also study how service providers can impact the energy usage of peripherals in the home, including mobile phone chargers." See green broadband and compare NB provincial party policies on information and communications technology (ICT).

recommendation 12.12: US government should improve efficiency of its own communications[edit]

"The federal government should take a leadership role in improving the energy efficiency of its data centers." The greening of government operations was similarly a focus of Canadian federal policy under the Martin federal government especially under Minister of Public Works Scott Brison.