Broadband over power line a key enabler for AMI

Charles Newton,
Research Company
Ellicott City, MD, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — July 16, 2007 – Although still in its infancy, Broadband over Power Lines (BPL) will soon be a key enabler for Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), promoting true automated meter reading, and allowing demand response and demand side management programs to develop.

This is according to a new study by the Newton-Evans Research Company on topics related to the use of, and plans for, BPL and power line carrier communications technologies (PLC).

According to the study certain Western nations appear to have gained significant experience with sizable pilot implementations or beyond, and BPL rollouts – both tests and full-scale deployments – now encompass the ability to serve perhaps 10 million customers.

In 2006 approximately 1.3 million electricity consumers around the world were covered by BPL deployments, but it is expected that 20.25 million consumers globally will be covered in 2008 and 69.5 million consumers by 2010, with growth occurring on all continents.

While utilities generally do not want to be involved in the telecommunications services business, they do want to gain the benefits of BPL for their internal use in remote asset management, monitoring and network control, the study found. Many also see BPL as eventually being able to replace other forms of remote asset management, including SCADA, teleprotection, and the use of narrow bandwidth forms of PLC.

However, the promise of BPL is perhaps greatest in its potential to extend the broadband network to the 2 billion inhabitants of the world’s rural areas, who generally remain without access to modern, high-speed telecommunications services.

In the U.S. major BPL rollouts are under way by Current Communications with Duke Power subsidiary CINERGY to 1.5 million customers in Ohio, and with TXU in Texas, in what may become the largest North American deployment of BPL, reaching as many as 2 million customers.

Other commercial deployments of BPL in the U.S. are occurring at South Central Indiana REMC, Consumers Energy, Lebanon (Indiana), Bowling Green (Ohio), Central Virginia Electric Cooperative, National Grid (New York) and Pennsylvania Power and Light. Duquesne Broadband is the BPL service provider for Duquesne Power Company in Pennsylvania.

Charles Newton, president of Newton-Evans Research Company, says that clearly a few states are now taking the lead with public utility commissions that are aggressively freeing BPL constraints to encourage rapid development, with California, New York and Texas among the leaders. “These are the same states that are also legislating for demand response programs and advanced metering infrastructure,” comments Newton.