October 9, 2009 - "San Diego is fast becoming epicenter of the smart grid," declared Chris Baker, CIO of San Diego Gas & Electric. on Wednesday.

The electric company has installed electronic sensors at its sub stations, is trialing self-healing smart grid technology, installed technology to manage outages and is deploying location-aware grid operations so it knows where electric outages are located.

"We are the first utility in the U.S. to roll out full two-way communications with in-home control," he said. "We have already rolled out the capability to 1.4 million San Diego gas customers with full implementation by 2011." The utility serves 23 million customers in all.

But, Baker cautioned, the electric industry is one that needs the wireless industry's help as it begins this massive shift from pipes to wires, complete with automated and sophisticated real-time architecture. Baker's organization in particular will need millions of sensors across thousands of miles of pipes. The only way to monitor the entire area is via wireless technology.

He told wireless industry attendees that electric utilities are in need of five critical elements:

  • Pervasive coverage: San Diego Gas & Electric in particular needs to cover 25,000 square miles;
  • Capacity: In mobility mode, that pervasiveness needs to be consistent at 100 kbps on the mobile side and 1 mbps for fixed technology;
  • Cost: The cost cannot be greater than if it paid for a commercial 3G contract;
  • Performance: The smart grid requires consistent service;
  • Secure: The network can't be hacked.