November 25, 2003

Internet survivability and the Smart Grid

Previous smart grid posts are here, here, here, here, and here but aren't, strictly speaking, necessary to get this piece.

Rensys has put out a significant report on the great US blackout of 2003. Contrary to prior reports that crowed about how the Internet hardly hiccuped, in actuality it suffered significant route outages. The main thoroughfares of the information superhighway were alright but the side streets and byways had significant levels of outage due to insufficient backup power sources.

One of the things that our current dumb grid cannot do is that it cannot provide cheap information about itself. A smart grid which provided information about what was attached and provided a more sophisticated real time power market down to the very local scale would provide such cheap information on the reliability of the Internet to power failure.

An example from the financial world would suffice to explain how this would work. An outsider doesn't have to look at WorldCom's books to ferret out that it's in serious trouble, a >50% stock drop in one day provides that information quite adequately, in a timely manner, and cheaply. You can factor in that financial instability into your telecom purchasing decision making even though this process has nothing to do whatsoever with your investment portfolio. This is an extreme example but financial information, quarterly reports, and other artifacts of a smart financial market enable far more information sharing than is used or needed to make actual investment decisions.

Similarly, a power market could be set up with respect to Internet infrastructure so that information about reserve power levels could be easily embedded into the system and you could use that to enhance reliability. You could know to a much higher level of detail when and how your internet connectivity would cut out in the face of a widespread power emergency. ISPs, knowing that this information is out there would take measures to ensure that adequate backup power would be available.

Posted by TMLutas at November 25, 2003 12:05 AM