While traveling over the continent of Africa at the end of the 90s, it became clear that right of way was the most expensive, hard-to-create, and hard-to-operate-and-maintain asset in every country. Power authorities struggled to get the legal right and the funds to create transmission paths from their plants and dams to their customers. At the same time, telecom companies were forced by economics to use a European country’s satellite connections and to pay them what amounted to a transfer fee on every call outside their country – even if the call was connected to a neighboring African country.
But neither the power nor the telecom service providers thought to build along a common right of way. They seemed to always operate separately. On realizing this, I went out of my way on a number of occasions to put together power people I met with telecom commissions (the telecom commissions of Economic Community of West African States and the Southern Africa Development Community with Eskom and the Southern Africa Power Pool).
The important idea we began to discuss together was to focus the revenue streams of power transmission and telecommunications along the same right of way to nourish this common carrier path’s sustained operations and maintenance.
A power grid network can evolve this common carrier pathway into transformative opportunities, such as:
- The power grid right-of-way can deliver powerful new communications technology solutions through its universal customer access
- Building an extreme-capacity broadband network on the power grid can provide dedicated and secure support for all the smart grid applications it will take to maximize energy efficiency
- This broadband network can be designed to be self-aware and self-healing – allow more reliable management of electric distribution and communications through network faults and power outages.
- An intelligent broadband power grid network can service multiple public utility or rural electric cooperative grids – without sacrificing each local smart grid’s managerial autonomy.
- An intelligent network built on power grids can defeat power theft and manage customer accounts
- A power grid network built through multiple public utility or rural electric coop distribution grids can buy both network and smart grid hardware & software with much higher economies of scale.
- A network of multiple local power grids can generate sufficient communications service revenues to both subsidize smart grid apps and enable the power grid network to operate profitably.
Advanced communications services and local power grids can flourish in the reciprocal relationship of a power grid network.
Power utilities leasing out their right of way for telephone links can provide ancillary revenue, but insufficient to fund and manage the smart grid.
Telecom companies offering standard “plain-old-telephone-services” and internet access over power grid utility pole lines confront dual limitations in both traffic and profit margins that universal service funds can never adequately address.
The community’s scarce resources can be better deployed for everyone’s benefit than they are now. This power grid network offers one real solution.
See: USrural project