Cisco and Duke Energy work to build smart grid

A new network would monitor and manage electrical use to the home

Cisco has been enlisted by a Fortune 500 electric power company to monitor and control power consumption by creating a smart grid.

Duke Energy, a $13.2 billion company delivering electricity to 11 million customers in five states, has hired Cisco for three years to help design an IP network that will push Duke Energy monitoring gear into its distribution network and even customers' homes.

The utility wants the extended network to be standards based for easy interoperability and for further expansion to support future technologies, says Todd Arnold, senior vice president for smart grid and customer systems at Duke Energy.

The network will gather data about network load and performance, and be able to adjust energy consumption in homes equipped with energy management devices. Cisco will help develop and install these devices as well as new communications gear for electricity substations, Arnold says.

Cisco has also teamed up with Florida Power & Light to do similar work. The vendor has home network assets that could be expanded to include monitoring and management of home energy consumption.

Smart grid technology has been touted by the Obama administration as important technology to improve energy efficiency to combat greenhouse gases. Arnold says the model of electrical grids is shifting from centrally located power plants with power lines radiating from them to distributed sources of power all along the network. Smart grids will enable better monitoring of these additional energy sources, such as solar and wind generators at customer sites.

Last month Cisco announced Cisco Smart Grid, an initiative to design data networks to serve electricity networks. The company says that during the next few months it will deliver products and services to support smart grids. The company is trying to tap into what it projects will be a $20 billion market in five years.

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