Why electric power and telecom providers need to be talking


By: SGN Staff


Quick Take: As many of you know, I founded the Smart Cities Council 18 months ago when I noticed that many cities were using their smart grid as the foundation for a smart city. The name of the game in smart cities is to share information between departments.


But you don't need a smart city initiative to start collaborating. ESRI's Bill Meehan, head of their worldwide utility practice, makes this point in a recent blog titled "Sharing Information to Support Smart Grid." As he points out, electric power utilities and telecoms could both improve their reliability and outage management by sharing information. - By Jesse Berst


When ESRI's Bill Meehan presented to a mixture of telecom in electric power professionals, he was surprised to discover that the two groups rarely collaborate. This is surprising given that the two groups are increasingly dependent on one another - particularly during outages.


Outages impact telecommunications companies, which need power for cell towers and routers. They need detailed information to know where to deploy emergency generators and when to expect the power to return. Yet, says Meehan, telecoms appear to get outage information the same way as every other customer - by calling the power company.


Likewise, electric power utilities often employ cell phones for their field workers. And some utilities use cellular communications for all or part of their smart meter and distribution automation.


Despite these interdependencies, electric utilities and telecom companies rarely share real-time situational awareness. Doing so, Meehan asserts, would reap major benefits. He suggests that the two groups share their damage assessments using a common GIS platform. "If a tree takes down a pole line, this event is likely impacting both electric company and the telecommunications company."


Creating a sharing framework among utilities, telecommunications, city departments and other agencies could greatly improve resiliency and reliability.


Jesse Berst is the founder and Chief Analyst of SGN and Chairman of the Smart Cities Council, an industry coalition.

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