Focus area: Supply and control

Grid over BroadBand(tm): Jointly Optimizing Electric Power Generation & Residential Electrical Use


Solution/product description

The evolution of global energy landscapes and the aging of power systems have resulted in the need for countless upgrades in the industry’s infrastructure. Indeed, trends for increasing low-cost renewable energy generation in commercial and residential buildings are on the rise and have resulted in economic imbalances between utilities and consumers. Further, these trends have influenced energy generation to become decentralized, creating the need for time- and location-based retail pricing. This has spurred concern over how to modernize the metering and accounting of electricity. Moreover, using what is known as the value of solar (VOS), industry professionals are seeking to set costs and pricing in a way that is fair and equitable to all parties ( Valuing solar generation on local levels assists energy systems operators and stakeholders in justly evaluating energy supply and demand options, allowing for optimal energy management. The distributed control technology that is central to this project offers an opportunity for the cable industry to expand its market base in leveraging adaptive demand-side management (A-DSM)(tm) to optimize the rapidly evolving electricity supply chain. In doing so, the cable industry can benefit from energy management opportunities while riding the wave of grid optimization.

This project introduces Grid over Broadband (GoB)(tm), a cable operator initiative that provides critical support for the development, modernization, efficiency, and security of the power grid. GoB allows the best of both networks, the electrical and broadband, to be leveraged for a greater and improved result. Using the superior speed and two-way connectivity of the broadband network enables the existing electrical grid to deliver and manage power in a more effective and efficient way than has ever been possible. Further, GoB provides unique business opportunities for cable operators to leverage existing assets to effectively optimize the efficiency of the grid while simultaneously addressing environmental concerns. Potential customers of the GoB system are stakeholders in the energy value chain. These include energy utilities, companies in the energy ecosystem who service or interconnect with utilities, investors in and developers of renewable energy projects, and industrial, commercial & residential consumers, all of whom who rely on electric power. GoB leverages A-DSM, a newly developed end-to-end technology, resulting in increased grid efficiency and reduced energy cost. The end-to-end scope of GoB is shown in Figure 1.

GoB lowers the cost of electric service and achieves a host of electric grid benefits by applying production cost modeling and model predictive control (MPC) to jointly optimize electric power generation and residential electrical use. Using algorithms that programmatically value solar, other renewable energy sources (RES) and conventional generation at every instant in time, GoB reduces the production cost of electricity which is on the order of $100 billion/year in the U.S. and $500 billion/year worldwide ( Preliminary results indicate a 2 percent reduction in production cost may be possible, representing an annual opportunity of $2 billion in the U.S and a $10 billion worldwide.

The size of the business opportunity of using GoB to reduce electricity production costs is related to the proportional mix of conventional and RES generation technologies. In the near- and long-term, as the generation mix evolves, optimizing output from conventional thermal power plants along with new RES additions will continue to provide financial returns. In steam power plants, the efficiency losses of the 150-year old Rankine cycle result in an average of 2/3 of all the energy used in electricity generation to be rejected as waste heat ( The rejected waste heat is related to the latent heat of vaporization and condensation processes -- which produce no electricity. The resulting enormous thermodynamic efficiency losses are shown at the top of Figure 2, which is an energy balance depicting energy flows from sources at left to end uses at right. The thickness of each line denotes the size of the energy flows measured in quadrillion BTUs (Quads). Note the staggering amounts of rejected energy in light gray. This rejected energy is responsible for 2/3 of the cost of generation and is the largest worldwide contributor of thermal and greenhouse gas emissions including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and carbon dioxide (

GoB raises efficiency in generation by continuously orchestrating electricity supply and demand throughout the grid. GoB inverts the traditional electricity supply and demand relationship, with supply no longer relegated to following demand, but rather, demand following the lowest cost forms of supply. To do so, GoB accommodates the variable and uncertain nature of RES, enabling more low-cost wind and solar power on the grid, thus reducing production costs. GoB also improves the efficiency of conventional thermal generation including nuclear, natural gas, coal, oil, and biomass-fired power plants. GoB accomplishes this by minimizing the part-load operation of these generators as shown in Figure 3, which depicts the heat rate, a measure of electrical generation efficiency, as a function of thermal generator output power. Note the high generation cost per kWh of electricity at upper left when the generator is running at a low percentage of output power, and the dramatically lower generation cost as the generator approaches 100 percent of output power. Not shown on this graph, but of equal or greater importance are the similar declines in the associated thermal and greenhouse emissions per unit of generated electricity.

GoB’s application of A-DSM to continuously modulate demand throughout the day will be increasingly critical in efficiently managing the smart grid to reliably deliver clean, low-cost electricity. This increasing criticality is due to environmental concerns as well as the steady decline in the cost of new RES generation, resulting in an exponential rise in RES projects. Simply put, in current and upcoming world markets it is cheaper to build new RES than to operate existing thermal generators. These economics are a major driving force for the successful implementation of GoB. Indeed, of the cities receiving at least 70 percent of their power from RES, 57 percent are in Latin America, 20 percent are in Europe, 9 percent are in Africa and 9 percent are in North America ( Make no mistake, the increased penetration of RES is already challenging grid operations and limiting the size of residential solar installations in California, Hawaii, and other locations worldwide. As such, the timing of business opportunities for Cable operators to assist municipalities is now. Domestic opportunities include the city of Los Angeles achieving a 100 percent renewable energy powered grid by 2030 and the State of Hawaii achieving 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. And there are countless more projects needing Cable’s help worldwide.

The increased penetration of RES electricity generation presents significant operational challenges as the grid has traditionally been controlled using dispatchable generation that provides electricity to meet demand along with standby (spinning and nonspinning) reserves to meet contingencies. New controls are urgently needed as the generation mix evolves and large-scale, high-inertia thermal generators are replaced by low-inertia RES generation, particularly end-of-line and last-mile distributed generation—for example, rooftop solar photovoltaic panels. This creates opportunities for GoB cable operators to assist energy utilities in deploying advanced supervisory grid control algorithms, such as voltage optimization, volt-var optimization (VVO), conservation voltage reduction (CVR), distribution system optimal power flow, and the provision of bulk power system ancillary services from distributed energy resources (DERs).

The benefits of GoB’s jointly optimizing residential building energy use with conventional and renewable generation are being evaluated at a scale that matters. An ongoing case study reveals the system-wide financial savings in the highly-cable-populated wholesale electric markets managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) followed by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), and the PJM Regional Transmission Operator, which collectively supply half of all U.S. electricity.

The GoB project develops the technologies and financial justification necessary to provide an A-DSM orchestration system for advanced power system operations through existing broadband networks; this disruptive innovation will accelerate smart grid technology adoption and ensure Cable’s ability to build innovative offerings that leverage its existing assets.

How does your project address / improve the focus area (Monitoring and Measurement, Demand Response, Supply and Control)?

Grid over Broadband (GoB) shares and monetizes both the grid and cable plants. GoB addresses and improves the Adaptive Power Challenge (APC) focus area of ‘Supply and Control’ by directly answering the question “What if, with adaptive power, and DOCSIS® enabled devices, information could be gathered, shared and monetized across both the grid and cable plants?” GoB improves supply and control by favoring the least-cost forms of supply, using broadband connectivity to influence residential demand in order to prioritize high-efficiency conventional generation and low-cost renewable energy sources (RES) such as wind and solar. Because of its end-to-end scope, GoB overlaps the APC ‘Demand Response’ focus area, allowing Cable operators to reap financial awards as well as to offer a service that enables cable customers to reap financial rewards. Cable’s existing broadband assets provide the communications superhighway and new assets such as smart thermostats and home energy management systems are deployed that immediately produce income as new revenue generating units are added. In addition, GoB overlaps the APC ‘Monitoring & Measurement’ focus area by optimizing the end-to-end energy network to reduce critical power and operational expense. GoB will help Cable’s facilities and outside plant provide operational cost reductions with A-DSM providing a forecast price “input signal” the SCTE Energy 2020 APSIS-enabled infrastructure ( Applications include heating, ventilating and air conditioning of data centers, contact centers & office buildings, and “revving up the network” during low-cost, low-traffic periods for downloading new code to network elements such as set-tops, cable modems, and IoT devices.

What was your inspiration for your project?

The inspiration for the Grid over Broadband (GoB) project stems from 39 years of research, resulting in progressive responses to how renewable generation and its management fit in the cable network ( Indeed, this author has found recent footholds linking the energy and cable industries in a joint effort to accomplish a groundbreaking collaboration to support increased penetration of renewables and growth of the global cable industry. After considering many possibilities and lessons learned from trial deployments, the cable and energy industries finally have a great opportunity to work together at scale, with willing experts and guidance from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI) at the University of Colorado Boulder. Specifically, the implementation of GoB technologies will introduce the use of adaptive demand-side management (A-DSM) through a Cable broadband-based energy management offering that saves consumers’ money. This practice has great potential in becoming an industry standard throughout the U.S. and around the globe, thus ensuring cable’s ability to serve more of society in homes worldwide.

What is the single most exciting thing about your project?

What is most exciting about the implementation of Grid over Broadband (GoB) is a clear vision on how to quickly balance both the supply-side and demand-side of energy management on a global scale. GoB, is a new adaptive take on classic DSM (A-DSM). GoB will result in accelerating the adoption of renewable energy sources (RES) with all stakeholders gaining a sustainable future that delivers increased energy efficiency, decreased production costs and increased value that leverages existing assets. This will alleviate the increased financial pain experienced by non-generating customers which have put the growth of renewable generation at substantial risk. (

What this means for cable:
Through GoB, Cable has the technology to make a profitable business case in raising the efficiency of electricity generation, reducing thermal and greenhouse gas emissions, and simultaneously allowing the grid to be powered by increasing the penetration of RES. In addition, Cable can leverage the worldwide broadband DOCSIS standard that allows for the rapid penetration of GoB. In addition, over time, new business opportunities and the benefits to cable operators and energy utilities will continue to grow as new IoT (Internet of Things) sensors become increasingly available throughout neighborhoods and homes.

Disrupting the status quo between the cable and energy industries can be achieved with GoB innovation that spurs evolution. Indeed, this work revolutionizes and revitalizes growth in two important industries. An appropriate marriage of technologies from two domains of nearly twinned topology, the electric distribution and cable television networks, would enable rapid progress together and yield a fresh take on the smart grid – leveraging the critical mass of existing equipment and facilities necessary to accelerate the implementation of GoB on a global scale.

Why did you decide to take part in the Adaptive Power Challenge?

Aligning the power grid and cable network is strategic, visionary & untapped.
1. Cable will gain a platform that will: a) improve cable operations by better monitoring grid performance and commercial power outages, b) provide the ability to benchmark grid performance across cable operators, and c) build a better understanding of the energy ecosystem for future business opportunities.
2. GoB provides a new product for Cable’s growing business services operations. A service that provides Industrial, commercial and residential customers with data on grid serviceability, availability, and performance.
3. For real-time DSM, GoB use cases will require real-time, secure communications - leveraging (and showcasing) the low latency prowess of the cable network.
4. GoB requires analysis of massive datasets (billions of forecast streams of data) which will drive advances in machine learning.
5. Cable is entrepreneurial. This is just another example of Cable building an innovative service leveraging its existing assets.

The power grid requires upgrades creating Cable industry opportunities for synergistic and symbiotic partnerships. The U.S. power grid delivers $400B of electricity/year with an aging system that sorely needs an upgrade to its $840B infrastructure.

The power grid is undergoing unprecedented change. Power systems around the world are experiencing unbridled change driven by the growth of variable renewable energy, decarbonization, a rise in active/interested energy consumers, and a proliferation of two-way technologies.

There is a lack of operational control in the power grid. Despite the grid getting “smarter”, there is a lack of control over last mile performance. While innovation is happening across the energy supply chain (from generation to transmission to distribution to customers’ premises), there is a “perception vs. reality” gap when it comes to today’s capabilities and the expected pace of change.

For some time, a cable modem was installed every 30 seconds worldwide. As of 2017, every second, 127 new devices were connected to the internet every second somewhere around the world (source: McKinsey Global Institute). It is time for Cable to stake its claim in managing the use of energy by leveraging all these devices.

GoB as an incredible opportunity to increase Cable’s presence in every residential and commercial building in a way that makes Cable the go-to source for both monitoring and raising the efficiency of the grid. In the U.S., residential and commercial buildings are equally responsible for 75 percent of all electricity use. Connecting cable to every building to monitor and manage energy consumption is the right thing to do and is a sustainable solution that will continually improve our ways of life.

Ultimately, GoB enables new technologies for optimizing the bulk power system that results in increased penetration of clean renewable energy sources while reducing global warming by reducing dependence on electricity generated from burning fossil fuels.

The interdisciplinary team supporting this author is exceptionally qualified to leverage existing broadband networks to support future power system operations. In addition to the team’s outstanding capabilities, there are now deep technical collaborations with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and successful product collaborations with network suppliers such as Alpha Technologies, ARRIS International, Cisco Systems, and many consumer electronics companies.

NREL is uniquely positioned in this comprehensive project given its extensive experience in power distribution systems planning, operations, and communications, and its history of working closely with utilities on cutting-edge research and its real-world deployment. NREL will provide technical leadership and contributions across all tasks.