UTC Asks House Energy Committee to Facilitate More Spectrum for Utilities
Tuesday, February 27, 2018 | Comments

The Utilities Technology Council (UTC) applauded a hearing on modernizing the nation’s energy infrastructure but said a critical piece of the discussion must be centered on the information, communications and technology (ICT) networks embedded throughout the grid and the spectrum necessary to operate the networks.

“Indeed, electric infrastructure and the ICT networks that underpin them are essential to the reliable flow of electricity,” UTC said in a letter to the subcommittee.

The letter to subcommittee members said ICT networks are critical to grid modernization as they enable utilities to integrate intermittent generation resources such as solar and wind, accommodate demand response regimes, smoothly transition between battery storage technologies and the grid, and provide the infrastructure needed to deploy electric vehicles, among other exciting advances empowered by technology and now sought by customers.

“Because these networks often rely on wireless devices to communicate, RF spectrum is a key element to their success,” UTC said. “As utilities built and maintained these networks, however, they noticed a disconnect in how their services are valued by the FCC in contrast to other government agencies.

“Unfortunately, the FCC historically has not acknowledged this criticality in its spectrum allocation policies. As the demand for spectrum has increased exponentially due to the increased use of smart phones, drones, and many other wireless devices, the FCC’s policies have crowded utilities out of, or forced them to share, spectrum in bands that are essential for the reliable flow of electricity. As policymakers discuss infrastructure proposals, we encourage members of this subcommittee to consider the critical nature of energy providers and ensure they have access to suitable spectrum.”

Specifically, the FCC said Congress should direct the FCC and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to meet on a regular basis to discuss issues of shared interest and jurisdiction. UTC said Congress should direct FERC and the FCC to enter into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that would establish a format for these regular meetings and create a joint spectrum team consisting of a commissioner and staff from each agency. The joint spectrum teams would discuss each agency’s authorities and hold technical conferences on how spectrum policies impact the energy industry.

The letter also said Congress should consider passing a “sense of Congress resolution” officially stating its recognition of the energy sector’s spectrum needs. “Such a resolution would declare the importance of spectrum to the energy industry, sending a strong signal to government agencies about how critical spectrum is to our nation’s electricity future,” the letter said.

The full Energy and Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over FERC and the FCC. UTC said the subcommittee members have an opportunity to facilitate these discussions and analyze the growing interdependencies between the energy and telecommunications sectors.

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