Monday, July 11, 2005 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

BPL Will Make Electric Markets More Efficient

Drudge links today to a Houston Chronicle story touting business partnerships to promote broadband-over-powerlines, a sure sign that at least the technological hype has gone mainstream.

Most of the focus on BPL is from the broadband-side, which is surely the right focus given the competition potential it brings as low-incremental cost platform. However, the lion's share of benefits from BPL (smart, two-way data streams) may accrue to the electric system. The Chronicle story quotes Thomas Standish the COO of CenterPoint Electric, a BPL leader:

But where we really think it will work well is in such areas as remotely reading gas and electric meters and remotely turning on and off power service for customers in the competitive retail electric markets.

This is exactly right. As my electricity geek friend Lynne Kiesling is wont to say (again and again because it can't be said enough): it is all about creating a demand-side market in electricity. And that takes smart grids and smart meters that can communicate information to consumers. That's called BPL.

There are, I suspect, enormous system savings for electricity customers from more widespread deployment of BPL-like communications technology. This is one place where a regulatory prod would be welcome, particularly since traditional utilities don't have the greatest incentive to invest in these technologies.

Now don't even get me started on the cost allocation problems between regulated and unregulated competitive activities this all presents.

posted by Ray Gifford @ 7:47 AM | Electricity