Utility Fiber-to-the-Home Service Provides Opportunity for Smart Grid Deployments

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More electric utilities are offering broadband Internet service to customers. It’s a win for utilities’ customers because many are receiving broadband services where they previously did not have access. In addition, this new high-speed communication infrastructure enables utilities to use sophisticated automation equipment to improve power reliability.

Several utilities have done this successfully, most notably EPB of Chattanooga, Tennessee, which reduced customer minutes of interruption by more than 50% through its investment in a fiber-optic network and self-healing grid. Now, more rural cooperative utilities are getting in on the trend.
Electric utilities are a natural fit to offer broadband service. They have the necessary workforce skills, right-of-way access to utility poles, and a large customer base. Recently, rural Mississippi utilities convinced state lawmakers to permit supplying fiber-optic broadband service to customers.

Utilities can get funding support. Some of the deployment expense can be offset through grant funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and assistance from the CARES Act.

Utilities deploying fiber and broadband across their systems are creating the backbone necessary to enable smart-device support on the system. Reliable, high-speed communication is necessary for successful smart grid deployment.

The benefits of enabling smart devices through broadband communication are numerous. Utilities gain more and faster options to address faults and more real-time visibility of system equipment. When a rural utility wants to incorporate automation, such as a sophisticated fault interrupter or self-healing automation system, determining how to communicate to devices on long, rural feeders can be challenging to impossible. But having high-speed fiber communication along those long feeders helps make that possible.  Access to high-speed communication gives utilities great potential to improve power reliability.

If utilities need assistance, seeking experience is a best practice. Companies that have helped lots of utilities with their automation equipment and connectivity issues can avoid confusion that might arise because their experience has already guided them through the necessary processes.


Lea Maurer

Publication Date

September 14, 2021