America’s energy demands continue to grow while pressure to focus on preserving our environment and move to a “green economy” are also increasing. Broadband offers the opportunity to reduce our country’s carbon footprint and our dependence on foreign oil, while spurring economic growth through new environmental jobs.
Broadband Benefits the Energy and Environmental Sectors
Broadband enabled technologies such as telemedicine, long-distance and business communications programs and e-commerce allow our country to move from activities that require travel to alternatives that are virtually carbon neutral. Broadband makes possible the effective use of smart meters, smart buildings and smart grids to increase our control over home and building energy consumption. With access to a robust broadband system, the energy savings could accrue to every home in the United States with two-way communication including “smart appliances” that are only in use when they are needed.
What is Needed to Bring Broadband to the Energy and Environmental Sectors?
In addition to broadband however, energy providers and consumers also need to look at several other factors. Do providers and customers have the right technological tools to leverage broadband? Do existing process and procedures permit use of broadband and are existing personnel trained to use such technologies? The Utah Broadband Project can provide education, awareness, and facilitate broadband opportunities for public safety. But we also need to understand how the energy and environmental sectors want to use broadband, and the barriers and challenges you face to integrate it into your public services.
Federal Communication Commission (FCC) National Broadband Plan
The FCC’s National Broadband Plan includes a set of ambitious goals and aspirations for broadband, energy and the environment. And it is just the starting point for conversations that will be held in this state and across the nation about the best way to deliver and use broadband. The Plan’s recommendations include:
- Unleash energy innovation in homes by making energy data readily accessible to consumers. Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that when people get feedback on their electricity usage, they make simple changes that save energy. Real-time information can also inform automated thermostats and appliances, enabling consumers to save energy and money automatically, while helping the country avoid expensive new power plants. To unleash innovation in smart homes and buildings, every American should be able to use broadband to track and manage their real-time energy consumption.
- Modernize the electric grid with broadband, making it more reliable and efficient. To ensure American energy independence and efficiency, broadband and other advanced communications technologies must be used to modernize the grid. Paired with high-tech tools, like dynamic management software and remote sensors, broadband will be crucial to advancing innovations in renewable power, grid storage, and vehicle electrification. There are over 3,000 electric utilities across the country, with different topographies, environments, and regulatory regimes. The vision of a “Smart Grid” will not use just one type of communications network – which is exactly why leveraging the flexibility and scope of broadband technologies makes sense.
- Improve the energy efficiency and environmental impact of the information and communication technology (ICT) sector. The electricity used by data storage centers alone is expected to double from 2006 to 2011. The federal government should lead the industry to examine ways to more effectively measure the impact of data centers, and craft solutions to make them more efficient. In addition, the FCC will work with the industry to understand how the ICT sector can improve its energy efficiency and environmental impact.
- Transition to a safer, cleaner, and more efficient transportation sector. The transportation industry is the second largest consumer of energy and the second highest emitter of greenhouse gases. Digital innovations – like real-time traffic information systems and broadband-enabled navigation tools – can enable more efficient route-planning and driving for commuters and commercial transit operators. A more connected transportation sector can also promote safety, ease navigation, and enable tools to reduce distracted driving. Broadband can also incentivize mass transit by giving riders a more productive, connectivity-rich commute.