The world’s largest maker of computer networking gear and the world's largest supplier of computer chip technology are among a large group of companies that are reportedly working up proposals to secure a share of the $3.9 billion grants the Department of Energy has up for grabs for so-called “smart grid” projects.
According to the EETimes, Cisco Systems and Intel Corp. realize the potential that exists for new and traditional products as we see more and more launches of smart grids – an energy-efficient and cost-saving technology that leverages digital technology to overhaul existing electrical grids. The shift to digital electric networks is something executives are keeping a close watch on – and Cisco (News - Alert) ought to be right in the center of that, as the company pushes its “network as communications platform” message and seeks ways to make the network more reliabile.
More companies are exploring the digital infrastructure for its ability to improve electrical system efficiency and the environmental footprint while it makes the overall system more reliable, with fewer outages.
“Every single one of our members is putting in for (DoE) funding” in some form, “and many are trying to team up to put out good proposals,” Katherine Hamilton, president of the GridWise Alliance, an ad hoc group of diverse utilities and companies including Cisco, IBM and Intel (News - Alert), told the EETimes.
A smart grid is a program designed to modernize the electricity industry by overlaying digital communications onto the grid. Experts said an updated electric grid would reduce energy related harmful CO2 emissions, which are predicted to grow by 50 percent from 2006 to 2030, TMCnet reported.
Smart grids already have strong support. The infrastructure is one priority that is part of the economic stimulus package the Obama administration announced earlier this year. The package reportedly called for $32 billion to improve the nation’s transmission grid, of which $4.5 billion was slated specifically at smart grid programs and grants, for utilities and their customers, TMCnet reported.
With the wealth of funding available, vendors like Cisco are investigating how they can help develop smart grids and take advantage of the growing infrastructure market.
To start, Cisco formed a smart grid board that oversees a variety of projects in the area, the EE Times reported. The board consists of several teams, including one on standards and architecture issues that is made up of at least 40 people from eight business units headed by Cisco fellow and former Internet Engineering Task Force chairman Fred Baker, the report said.
In addition, Cisco is trying to define new variations of Internet Protocol standards to better serve electric utilities. Earlier this month, Cisco reportedly sent a letter calling for use of Internet Protocol in smart grids to George Arnold, the national coordinator of smart grid standards at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the EETimes said. The company also sent a white paper pressing the adoption of IPv6 to handle the expected increase of smart meters, the report said.
Already, Verizon Wireless is catching on. The company is has teamed up with Ambient (News - Alert) Corp., to launch a host of smart grid projects nationwide. The projects will allow utilities to transmit data from both residential and commercial meters using wireless links, the companies said.
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Amy Tierney is a Web editor for TMCnet, covering unified communications, telepresence, IP communications industry trends and mobile technologies. To read more of Amy's articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Michael Dinan