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2010 in Review: Wireless and Our Energy Future

CTIA and our members recognize that we all have a responsibility to the environment for the health of our planet and for future generations.

This is why our members are developing “greener” products and services, implementing energy-saving technologies in our network operations and business practices and educating consumers about cell phone recycling.

But we believe the biggest environmental benefit comes from the efficiencies wireless offers businesses around the world, revolutionizing their operations and reducing their environmental impact in the form of paper waste reductions, fuel savings and more.

One of the most interesting ways wireless is helping the environment is by enabling the smart grid. We blogged back in September about smart grids and how wireless is supporting the unique communications smart grids rely on to achieve huge energy savings. President Obama estimated that a nationwide smart grid will reduce power outages that cost American consumers $150 billion a year, cut consumer bills with “smart meters” and put us on the path to generating 20 percent or more of our energy from renewable sources by 2020. During our fall show in October, we heard from Department of Energy Under Secretary Dr. Kristina Johnson about some of these benefits.

While modernizing our nation’s electrical grid will not come without cost, there are some smart ways to implement the smart grid. As we already highlighted in our comments to the Department of Energy on how the wireless industry can support smart grids, commercial wireless networks must be used rather than dedicated spectrum is critical to reducing costs and creating efficiencies. One estimate put the cost of building and managing a network at $110 million over 10 years, versus $54 million for relying on a commercial network over the same time period. Wireless carriers continue to invest more than $20 billion per year to upgrade and support their networks and achieve universal coverage, a feat seemingly impossible for utility-owned private networks.

As the Utilities Telecom Council concluded in their study on energy and water utilities’ communication needs, when utility companies rely on wireless technology for communications across the grid, and by having wireless carriers play an important role in smart grid deployment since they have the infrastructure and technical requirements needed, then we’ll have successful consumer adoption.

One Response to “2010 in Review: Wireless and Our Energy Future” Leave a reply ›

  • avatar

    Thanks for citing our study, Utility Communications Needs: Key Factors That Impact Communications Networks. However, we’d like to clarify that the study did not reach any conclusions regarding the use of wireless carriers and consumer adoption of the smart grid.

    This unprecedented analysis took a deep look at the technical and operational factors that utilities must take into account as they tackle the challenges in building 21st Century communications networks needed to power the smart grid. The study did reach a number of conclusions relevant to wireless carriers, outlining the key technical requirements carriers must meet in order for utilities to maintain safe, reliable and secure electricity services. The study also concluded that carriers must offer cost-effective solutions, with price a top reason why utilities might turn to or alternatively be discovered from tapping external communications companies.

    But our study did not conclude that reliance on wireless carriers is necessary for successful consumer adoption of smart grid technologies. How consumers might embrace smart grid applications is a big and crucial question for utilities, but it was not the focus of our analysis. In fact, the study’s report says nothing about wireless technology and consumer adoption.

    Moreover, as our study noted, utilities must manage a mix of communications technologies in order to successfully fulfill the promises of tomorrow’s intelligent energy grids. Although carriers are important utility partners in this effort, and face increased opportunities in utility communications, most utilities will continue to primarily rely on their own private networks in building out the smart grid.

    We appreciate this opportunity to clarify what the Utility Communications Needs study says.

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