Ed’s note: Open airwaves – an unexpected consequence of C-19?

I have been contemplating the unexpected consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic recently. Much has been said about the potential financial impact and the impact on daily operations, but it is often in the unexpected that little gems can be found. 

Like this example, for instance…

The Federal Communications Commission in the United States has voted to open up wireless communication bands, used predominantly by utilities, to unlicensed use. This is despite warnings from power and gas utilities that this move could threaten reliability and could heighten the risk of outages.

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According to news from S&P Global, the 1,200MHz spectrum on the 6GHz band will be available for unlicensed operations, despite it being used for critical communications by utilities.

The reason for the move was said to be partly due to the increased use of connected devices operational as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people now working from home, or making use of distance learning opportunities. The move will open up the available spectrum for Wi-Fi by “a factor of five.”

The Commission has claimed that the move will protect those who currently use the 6GHz band but many believe that this will lead to increased interference on this communication channel, threatening the safety and reliability of the grid. In particular, there is a concern about the reliability of protection equipment on the grid. [You can read the full release by S&P Global here]

It got me wondering what other unexpected consequences there were from the COVID-19 pandemic on the global utility sector.

Some of the consequences I have heard of via various industry channels include:

  • an increase in phishing attempts and cyberattacks as remote working opens up or exposes gaps in cybersecurity 
  • a series of focussed attacks on 5G towers and infrastructure across the world following unsubstantiated reports that 5G may be responsible for the coronavirus
  • reduced demand has impacted the rollout of renewable energy generation assets around the world
  • the oil market dropped to unprecedented lows as a result of oversupply and very low demand
  • negative weekday power pricing in European day-ahead markets
  • a potential negative impact on renewable energy price parity as fossil fuels drop to record lows
  • global reductions in pollution have highlighted the impact of emissions on air quality as cities around the world experience blue skies and a reduction in smog

What consequences have you experienced? Do you believe the opening of the WiFi spectrum by the FCC is a considered response to the increase in demand or will it have negative impacts?

This is an opportunity for you to relate where you have seen unexpected consequences of the pandemic in you work life and share these with us.

We’d love to hear from you.

Wishing you and yours well and in good mental health

Until next time!