December 1, 2009 – At a Monday hearing on the relationship between broadband technology and smart grid communications by the Federal Communications Commission in Cambridge, Mass., panelists made clear the important relationship between energy-efficient technologies and economic growth.
“I think [broadband adoption] is central to our long term economic growth. And it’s success is proxy to how much economic growth we will have in the future,” said Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., speaking at the FCC event hosted by the Massachusetts Institute for Technology.
“If we’re looking for a pathway out of these difficult times, we need to look to our adoption of these technologies,” said Markey. He said that the 1996 Telecommunications Act had created between 1.5 and 2 million U.S. jobs. The adoption of smart grids could extend that success by spurring high levels of competition motivated by that law.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski agreed that the advancement of national purposes, like the economy, was an important overarching goal for the national broadband plan that his agency is charged with developing by February 17, 2010.
Just as growth of broadband spurred a revolution of thought and industry, so too may the adoption of smart grids and energy efficiency.
“Smart grid and broadband are first cousins,” said Genachowski.
Similarly, smart grids and energy efficiency are linked: that is, the adoption of “smart” devices is part of the solution to energy dependence.
This all begs the question, what does the FCC have to do to promote this kind of success?
One suggestion came from Adrian Tuck, a member of the energy panel at the workshop. Tuck advocates the mandatory addition of a smart chip to electricity meters.
This small chip could automatically and frequently report information to electric companies, eliminating obstacles for consumers and saving money for suppliers. Requiring the chip’s installation would save $3 to $4 dollars per box required to add the chip later. It’s a small change, but one that could save money and direct the industry in years to come.