Perry’s grid plan will keep on the lights — and the Wi-Fi

Perry’s grid plan will keep on the lights — and the Wi-Fi
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Support for Secretary of Energy Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryPerry pictured with falcon, sword during trek to Saudi Arabia Trump promised ‘best people’ would run government — they upended it US oil and gas boom will actually help spur energy revolution MORE’s proposed rules designed to ensure a diversified fuel mix for baseload power plants is critical to America’s national security, public safety and “operational” functionality.

Electricity reliability has taken on a new mission — the support of our internet infrastructure facilities, where America stores the “smart” part of our new intelligence enabled society and on which we now depend for our very survival.

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For more than 130 years, all America needed to be “operational” was electricity. As recently as 2003 during the widespread North Eastern blackout, if a hospital, bank, airport, office building, fire station or national security asset had a backup generator, it could keep the lights on, MRI machines operating, money flowing, communications network operating, planes flying safely and our nation remained protected.

 

That is no longer the case.

Today many of these functions — as well as the “smart” in our new Smart Grid — resides in the “cloud” and relies on connectivity with internet infrastructure facilities. Today, electricity alone will not provide operational integrity.

We have arrived at a place where the “smart” part of our phones, homes, cars, cities, offices, hospitals (patient medical records, machine operating systems, etc.) and enterprise software used by airports/FAA, banks, the NSA, etc. reside in huge windowless buildings that require 50/100+MW of continuous and consistent power all day, every day.

These are the levels of power once reserved for small cities.

Moreover, the demand for and provision of electric service continues to evolve with residential and small businesses generating and storing their own DC power allowing for greater electricity independence and reliability. However, the grid is still running AC current, and as AC and DC currents do not play well together the challenges of managing the edge of the grid has intensified.

Even more significantly going forward, the internet and grid are merging with the arrival of the internet of things and networked industrial control systems in which all device to device and machine to machine communications, as well as all traditional phone calls and texting, are now managed in these same internet infrastructure facilities.

Builders of these internet infrastructure facilities, which are being built as fast as concrete will dry, make the bold claim that renewable energy will power their facilities. That claim may be so on paper, but the fact is that renewables only offset the actual baseload power coming from coal, nuclear and natural gas power plants. Traditional baseload generation is the only power source large enough, and reliable enough, to serve the huge demands of these internet facilities and the broader power grids on which they rely 24/7, year-round.

With natural gas pipelines running through national, state and local parks and backyards clearly marked “don’t dig here,” and the risk of a failure or attack on the pipeline networks, long-term on-site fuel storage that is typical for nuclear and coal power stations is increasingly important to assure grid resilience.

In order to meet our energy, information and security needs, we must maintain our baseload power coal and nuclear fleet. Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s decisive move is the right move for protecting and maintaining a diversified generation fleet critical for a 21st Century “smart” America.

Garland McCoy is the president of the Technology Education Institute an organization founded in 2011 to inform congressional and regulatory policy on technology-based industry. He has over 30 years experience in technology, communications and electricity network architecture, security and policy. McCoy was previously the founder and chief development officer of the Technology Policy Institute.