Maximizing Fiber-to-the-Home Investments for Grid Modernization

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The number of public power utilities investing in fiber-optic networks is growing, and utilities are leading the charge in delivering broadband Internet to rural America. In fact, more than 100 rural electric co-ops have embarked on fiber projects, up from just a handful a decade ago.

This trend is gaining momentum thanks to multiple funding opportunities available to public power utilities. Most notably, the 2022 Infrastructure and Jobs Act set aside $65 billion in funds for utilities to deploy fiber-optic networks, in addition to $5 billion to prevent outages and enhance grid resilience. Of the funding to prevent outages and enhance grid resilience, 30 percent has been earmarked specifically for public power utilities.

What this means is public power utilities are in the best position to capitalize on these incentives and leverage their infrastructure to provide greater information access and reliable power throughout the country. Some utilities are even setting up separate functions within their companies dedicated to fiber deployments, signifying the importance of prioritizing this work for the benefit of customers that rely on modern and digitized solutions.

Instead of treating fiber separately from grid enhancements, fiber can feed utilities’ grid-modernization efforts and serve as the foundation for smart devices. Fiber can serve as the communications mechanism among devices, enabling the equipment to quickly respond and self-heal when faults occur. Fiber-ready devices are readily available to help utilities make a seamless transition to a smart, modern grid.

Fiber-optic networks provide the fast communications that enhance smart grid devices, so utilities do not need to install external components and set up additional communication networks. While radios are a common way to enable communication among smart grid devices, fiber reduces the amount of day-to-day management of a fleet of smart devices, and it is not impeded by buildings or trees that might obstruct radios’ communications paths.

The sheer speed of fiber allows devices to respond quickly in storms. With fiber-ready devices, utilities can test whether faults are temporary and reroute power when a fault is permanent. As storms increase in frequency and severity, improving grid resilience becomes much more important.

With funding opportunities at the fingertips of public power utilities, now is the perfect opportunity for them to use fiber as the groundwork for grid modernization. Fiber-ready equipment makes grid advancements even easier and enables utilities to maximize their investments and improve reliability and resilience for customers across the country.


Lea Maurer

Publication Date

August 31, 2022