UTC Requests Federal Funding for Communications R&D
Thursday, April 12, 2018 | Comments

The Utilities Technology Council (UTC) asked for federal funds to research and develop technologies that would ensure utilities have resilient communications systems to recover from black sky events in a letter to Congress. UTC said various federal agencies should be encouraged to understand the cross-sector interdependencies that exist so solutions can be developed to address these interdependencies.

In addition, UTC asked lawmakers to require the FCC to consider the impact to grid resilience as it sets spectrum-allocation policies, such that the needs of critical infrastructure owners and operators are adequately weighted. The letter was addressed to Rep. Fred Upton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Bobby Rush, ranking member of the House subcommittee on energy.

The letter said the Department of Energy also plays a key role in relation to the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC), a public-private partnership in which UTC participates. “Recent events, including last year’s devastating hurricane season and the ongoing threat of cyberattacks on energy infrastructure, have demonstrated the importance of the ESCC and placed a particular spotlight on the need for resilient communications systems for utility service restoration, especially if the lights are out for an extended period,” UTC President Joy Ditto said in the letter.

Utility communications systems were essential to bringing electricity back online in Texas and Florida and other areas hit during last year’s hurricane season. “As the energy and telecommunications industries converge, the ESCC has highlighted the need for cross-sector collaboration with the communications sector,” Ditto said. “Additionally, the ESCC has a working group focused on studying the communications needs of electric utilities should they have to operate the grid in a degraded state. They are also looking at technology that would be needed should communications be rendered inoperable by a ‘black sky’ event.”

The full letter, sent the same day as a subcommittee hearing on the DOE fiscal year 2019 budget, is here.

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