Electric grid modernization requires modern, high-reliability and low-latency communications networks

A wide range of technologies are rapidly being commercialized and deployed to modernize the electric grid. These digital “smart grid” technologies take advantage of modern data acquisition, control and computing power to improve an electric grid’s operational efficiency and enable consumers to participate in the grid through distributed energy resources, like solar panels and batteries, and smart appliances, like connected electric water heaters. However, all of these technologies require ubiquitous bi-directional, high-capacity, low-latency, high-reliability, and cyber-secure telecommunications networks.

Automatic Volt-Var Optimization (VVO) and Conservation Voltage Reduction (CVR) are particularly compelling as they can adjust electric grid voltages in real time and improve grid efficiency by between 2% and 4%, without the need for electric customers to install specialized equipment. Other technologies being pursued by electric cooperatives include Advanced Metering Infrastructure, i.e., specialized “smart meters” that can communicate with the utility in real time, Outage Management Systems, which allow cooperatives to pinpoint the location and extent of an outage, Substation Automation, which allows cooperatives to monitor and control substation equipment, Demand Management, which allows cooperatives to reduce peak power consumption, and Distributed Energy Resource integration, which allows cooperatives to more cost-effectively use customer-sited equipment, such as solar panels and batteries.