5G: Opportunities and Challenges for Electric Distribution Companies

Electric utilities to be both users and participants in this new world of communications.

The advent of newer telecommunications technologies, such as 5G, is bringing to realization many new capabilities including wireless broadband services, low latency connectivity, and the ability to bring millions of internet connected devices — all of which will have a direct and indirect impact on electric distribution utilities.

There are realistic and practical opportunities for electric utilities to be both users and participants in this new world of communications. Utilities, regardless of their governance structure, business structure, or size, will have an opportunity to engage with these technologies. The level of participation will range from passive users to active partners, from pure infrastructure agents to collaborative contributors, and from pay-for-services rendered to possible owners of these capabilities.

The level of engagement utilities will have depends on a number of factors that will impact the relationship between utilities and communications providers. These generally include regulatory constraints, which may dictate the level of participation or ability to enter into commercial enterprise, corporate governance structure, the franchise or operating structure that sets the boundaries of what services can be offered to customers.

Additionally, there is the willingness that utilities will have to invest time, dedicate resources, and allocate capital — all of which translates to the potential financial, reputational, and service risk, as well as the opportunity to reap rewards that would be associated with the varying depth and breadth of the commercial arrangements.

The Promise of 5G

The fifth-generation wireless communications generation (5G) is based on the standards adopted by the International Telecommunications Council (ITC) and their third-generation partnership program (3GPP). It is an open, interoperable standard used by virtually all carriers. The major changes that this technology promises are improvements in the following requirements: speed, reduction in latency, higher bandwidth, greater capacity for connected devices, a targeted 99.999% uptime, the goal of 100% coverage, reduction in network energy usage, and up to 10-year battery life.

In terms of numbers, 5G speed will be up to 10Gbps peak data rate (a 10x to 100x improvement over 4G networks), latency will approach less than 1 msec (compared to 50 msec to 100 msec in 4G), there will be 1000x bandwidth increase per unit, and the network will support up to 100x the number of simultaneously connected devices.

The 5G map of functionality visually shows these areas that have been classified as massive internet of things (IoT) or machine type communications (mMTC), ultra-reliable and low-latency communications (URLLC), and enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB).

Providing ultra-reliable low-latency services for 5G with unattended data centers Source: J. Varga, A. Hilt, C. Rotter, and G. Járó

Operational Opportunities for Utilities to Leverage Carrier-Based 5G

While the primary focus for this new technology from a common carrier's perspective seems to center around broadband services, the most likely areas that will be important to electric utilities will be the increased capacity to support field area network needs for connected grid devices. The "Grid of Things" will greatly benefit from the connectedness afforded by the larger IoT.

"We plan to leverage our AMI network for connectivity needs, but that may change as we deploy more 'grid-edge' devices," said an executive of a mid-sized mid-Atlantic utility.

Low-latency services potentially offer the opportunity to leverage this technology to support mission critical applications, such as protective relay management, SCADA, and substation communications.

"Use of 5G can potentially provide SCADA and other system data over a cellular network versus a hard-wired solution through fiber or copper," said a general manager of a Connecticut public utility.

The high data rate mmWave wireless broadband services may be applied to augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR), an area where some utilities like Duke Energy and EPRI are actively leveraging, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that will improve asset management and visualization.

Utility-Owned/Private LTE

As technologies continue to provide improved performance capabilities, the industry demand for hardware, software, and services is driving the cost of these components further down the price curve. In many cases, utilities may already own frequency spectrums where these assets can operate and are exploring and deploying private LTE (PLTE). In the past few months, new frequency auctions in the 3550 MHz to 3700 MHz band were held in an area known as Citizens Broadband Radio Services (CBRS). Approximately 400 licenses were obtained by 11 electric utilities (6 IOUs, 4 co-ops, and one Muni).

Challenges 5G Creates for Electric Utilities

There are key foundational elements for this new communications infrastructure that include the use of existing and higher frequency spectra. These are the low band (less than 1 GHz) and the mid band (1 GHz to 10 GHz). These are where most of the 4G and LTE systems currently operate, but 5G involves the introduction of the high-band (15 GHz to 95 GHz) spectrum or mmWave.

Because of the physics of propagation, the high-band network will require a dense array of communications elements, known as small cells. In general, 'small cells' are defined by both their range — that is, how far the signals they transmit and receive can travel — and in many cases, the number of simultaneous users they can support.

Given the proliferation of microcells and the drive for carriers and infrastructure firms, like American Tower, Crown Castle, and SBA Communications, to leverage existing structures like electric distribution poles there is an increasing need for greater standardization of issues such as regulatory requirements, policies, safety concerns, and aesthetics.

Regulatory Requirements

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has established key requirements through various orders: "Pole access also is essential to the race for 5G because mobile and fixed wireless providers are increasingly deploying innovative small cells on poles and because these wireless services depend on wireline backhaul. Indeed, an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 small cells will be constructed by the end of 2018, and these numbers are projected to reach 455,000 by 2020 and 800,000 by 2026."

To facilitate the deployment of small cells, the FCC adopted a streamlined process for the rollout of these assets including setting governance over shot clocks and guidance over local governance regarding spacing, equipment design, and aesthetic concerns. It also established a new pole attachment process that includes "one touch make-ready" (OTMR), in which the new attacher performs all make-ready work.

OTMR speeds up and reduces the cost of broadband deployment by allowing the party with the strongest incentive — the new attacher — to prepare the pole quickly by performing all of the work itself, rather than spreading the work across multiple parties. This also covers areas such as overlashing.

Source: Seattle City Light

In the United States, approximately 25 state legislators have enacted small cell legislation that streamlines the facilitation of these assets. These include applications to access public right of ways, caps on costs, and fees and shot clocks for consideration and processing.


Utilities like CPS Energy (CPSE) have put in place a set of policies that addresses best practices. They have established an Energy Pole Attachment Program to facilitate constructive dialog with attaching entities and ensure transparency: "CPSE standards provide for a non-discriminatory, consistent, and streamlined approach for the access and use of CPS Energy Poles in a manner that will facilitate the delivery of the variety of communication services offered today, as well as assist with speed-to-market processes for future technologies in a manner that is consistent with the safe and reliable operation of CPS Energy Facilities."

CPSE has a website for access to its pole attachment standard to facilitate this process.

Summary and Call to Action

The use of electric poles for placement of 5G mmWave small cells will happen. Electric utilities need to investigate, evaluate, and execute the following actions:

Fully understand the regulatory and legislative orders as they relate to OTMR requirements, shot clock, and reduction of barriers.
Follow the local governance guides that may apply in states where there is a policy or rule.
Develop internal policies and practices that comply with these regulations.
Establish collaborative relationships with carriers and tower installation companies.
Maintain equality and transparency.
Seek ways to collaborate on needs and services (that is, powering, access, and possible use of existing communications backhaul).


This article is a summation of work performed by EnerNex under a contract with Distribution Systems Testing, Application, and Research (DSTAR), which is a consortium of electric utilities, facilitated by GE's Energy Consulting business (General Electric International, Inc.), sharing the results of distribution research. 

P3 strives to bring you quality relevant industry related news.

See the original full article at: https://www.tdworld.com/overhead-distribution/article/21151981/5g-opportunities-and-challenges-for-electric-distribution-companies?utm_source=TW+TDW+Energizing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=CPS210113071&o_eid=0371B9958123D7E&rdx.ident%5Bpull%5D=omeda%7C0371B9958123D7E&oly_enc_id=0371B9958123D7E

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The 10 Craziest Code Violations of 2020

Presenting the most bizarre electrical installation mishaps of last year that violated the NEC.

Suspended Ceiling Surprise 

Russ typically likes surprises, but not when they smack him in the head when he's removing suspended ceiling tiles. This junction box was just resting on top of the ceiling tile, and it fell right out when he slid the tile over. Surprise! Boxes must be supported in accordance with one or more of the methods specified in Sec. 314.23(A) through (H). These methods include: securely fastening the box to a surface; rigid support in the form of a brace; using nails or screws to fasten the box; using clamps, anchors, or other identified fittings; or even using support wires. There are no Code rules that permit simply resting the box on top of a removable ceiling tile. Installing a box in this manner could cause physical harm to the unsuspecting worker who moves that ceiling tile. It can also startle someone to the point where it knocks them off the ladder and results in serious injuries. Thankfully, this event did not result in any injuries. Another problem is the lack of cover for this box. Section 314.25 requires a cover, faceplate, lampholder, or luminaire canopy to be installed for a completed installation.

Holiday Hazard

This Christmas lighting display was quite a surprise. Russ discovered it on his way home from teaching class on a Tuesday night. While the gas station manager probably had good intentions, he clearly had no idea of the dangerous conditions he created by draping Christmas lights all over the gas pump island! Some of the light strings were swinging in the breeze and actually contacting the middle dispenser. Extension cords were strewn on the ground from the building to the island, and more cords ran from the island to the perimeter of the lot to illuminate rows of trees. In the photo, one of these orange extension cords is visible on the ground right in front of the pumps. Table 514.3(B)(1) describes the areas within 18 in. horizontally of these dispensers as Class 1, Division II. This Class 1, Division II location also includes the area 18 in. above grade level, extending 20 ft horizontally in all directions from the dispenser enclosures. Wiring and equipment installed in Class 1 locations must comply with Art. 501. These holiday lights and extension cords are not designed for use in hazardous locations. With no intention of being a "Grinch," Russ felt compelled to notify the Fire Prevention office about this unsafe display. The lights were removed the following day.

Airing Your Dirty Laundry

"This was taken from the second floor back deck of an apartment," says Stephen M. Daniels, president of Stephen M. Daniels Electrical Contractors in Lancaster, Pa. "The clothesline was tied to the triplex feeding the main electrical service." Although we cannot be 100% sure if these wires are covered by the scope of the Code, it certainly makes for a great conversation if they are. Section 230.9(A) requires service conductors installed as open conductors or multiconductor cable without an overall outer jacket to maintain a clearance of at least 3 ft from windows that are designed to be opened, doors, porches, balconies, ladders, stairs, fire escapes, or similar locations. Section 230.24(A) requires overhead service conductors to have a vertical clearance of not less than 8 ft above the surface of roofs. This vertical clearance above the roof is required to be maintained for no less than 3 ft in all directions from the edge of the roof. Lastly, Sec. 300.11(D) prohibits cable wiring methods from being used as a means of support for other cables, raceways, or nonelectrical equipment.

How Low Can You Go?

Russ wasn't 100% sure where the service point was for the service conductors installed overhead from the pole on the right-hand side of this building. It could be at the pole, line terminals of the meter, or at the splices on the wires entering the weatherhead. For this discussion, let's say the service point is at the pole. That being the case, the lowest point of the drip loop is way too low and is not NEC compliant. Section 230.24(B)(1) requires a minimum clearance of 10 ft from the lowest point of the drip loop to this sidewalk, which is accessible to pedestrians. These drip loop conductors are only 7½ to 8 ft above the sidewalk. Russ says he's average height and he could almost touch them while standing underneath and reaching up. A person just a little taller than Russ could easily reach them. Regarding another concern, there also appears to be some communications cables "hitching a ride" along the service raceway. This is a violation of Sec. 300.11(C) and Sec. 805.133(B). To be Code compliant, these cables must be independently secured and supported.

This Drives Me Plumb Crazy

As you can see by this photo, plumbers and electricians are still waging a never-ending battle for space. Russ didn't know who was here first, but the result is an installation with no clear working space as required by Sec. 110.26(A). For equipment such as switchboards, panelboards, and other equipment likely to be examined, adjusted, serviced, or maintained while energized, Sec. 110.26(A)(1) requires a minimum working space depth ranging from 3 ft to 5 ft, depending on conditions and voltage. The minimum width of the working space required by Sec. 110.26(A)(2) is 30 in., or the width of the equipment, whichever is greater. The minimum height required by Sec. 110.26(A)(3) for the working space extends from the floor, grade, or platform to a height of 6½ ft or the height of the equipment, whichever is greater. Working in crowded and cramped conditions such as this greatly increases the danger of the already hazardous job of working on energized electrical equipment. Building owners and managers need to recognize this threat and coordinate with all the building trades in an effort to prevent situations such as this from arising on their property.

Rogue Receptacle Installation

Brandon Spivey, owner of Event Horizon & Services in Nashville, Tenn., was kind enough to share this photo with us. He said, "The plugs were covered with a fabric panel with no other housing." Brandon also said he is "new to this all, and learning, but this seems like a Code violation." Brandon, you are correct. There are definitely Code violations here. Section 406.5 requires receptacles to be mounted in identified boxes or assemblies. Attaching receptacles to a couple of wooden blocks does not meet Code minimum requirements. It appears these boards were being used as some type of "box extender." A listed extension ring or listed box extender should have been secured to the flush-mounted box instead. The exposed energized terminals create a shock hazard and violate the rules of Sec. 406.5(I), which requires receptacles to be enclosed so that no live terminals are exposed to contact. The lack of a box cover for the outlet box is a violation of Sec. 314.25. According to Brandon, an equipment grounding conductor (EGC) run separately from the circuit conductors was connected to these isolated ground receptacles. This violates Sec. 250.146(D) and Sec. 300.3(B) if the EGC was not run with the circuit conductors.

Subpar Subpanel Feed

This photo was sent in by Eugene Lawrence with E-1 Electric LLC, in New Orleans. "We noticed this load center at a house in New Orleans," says Lawrence. "We were called out to check on a job done by others. These photos show what we found. They were trying to feed a subpanel. As you can see, the feeder cable coming out of the conduit is connected to an added 'wrong main.'" This was a great catch, Eugene. The original panelboard is not being used in a manner consistent for which it was designed and listed. Installing extra foot lugs on the bus bars and using circuit breakers from the wrong manufacturer violates the requirements of Sec. 110.3(B). The installers also failed to properly identify the grounded neutral conductor with white or gray as required in Sec. 200.6(B). Installing NM cables in PVC conduit located in an outdoor wet location such as this is a violation of Sec. 334.12(B)(4). Section 300.9 reminds us that "where raceways are installed in wet locations above grade, the interior of these raceways shall be considered to be a wet location."

Trespassers Beware!

Stephen M. Daniels, owner of Stephen M. Daniels Electrical Contractors of Lancaster, Pa., was kind enough to share this photo with us. "I was doing a service call for a dead circuit (forgive the pun), and took the panel cover off," said Daniels. "There were missing knockouts, which is how the furry panel guest got in. This is another reason why the Code calls for no open KO in panels or boxes." Russ could not agree more. Installing knockout seals is important for many reasons, including keeping trespassers out of the enclosure. Section 110.12(A) makes it clear that unused openings (except mounting holes and other openings such as drainage holes and air vents that are intended for the operation of the equipment) must be closed in a manner that provides protection substantially equivalent to the wall of the enclosure. Sealing up the unused openings also helps keep arcs and sparks from escaping (and possibly igniting) nearby combustible materials. Debris and liquids can also fall into unsealed and unused openings, causing damage to internal parts of the equipment. While the Code rules will not always prevent every critter from finding a way into enclosures, they will help minimize the possibility.

Unclamped Cable Collection

Who needs cable connectors when the cables can simply be shoved into the panelboard cabinet? This is obviously not the correct way to terminate NM cables in a panelboard cabinet. Section 312.5(C) is very clear when stating "each cable shall be secured to the cabinet, cutout box, or meter socket enclosure." There is an exception relieving this requirement for NM cables installed through sleeves entering the top of surface-mounted enclosures. However, the exception is not applicable to this installation. Similarly, Sec. 300.11(A) requires cables to be securely fastened in place. With no connectors used to secure these cables to this cabinet, we can say these cables are not securely fastened in place. Another violation here is the use of "tandem" or "twin" circuit breakers in this panelboard. This is a circuit-limiting, class CTL-type panelboard designed for only 12 circuits. Using circuit breakers and panelboards in a manner not consistent with their listing or labeling instructions is a violation of Sec. 110.3(B). For panelboards, Sec. 408.54 requires a design to prevent the installation of more overcurrent devices than that for which the panelboard is designed, rated, and listed. This could include notches on certain bus bars to accommodate only certain types of breakers.

Which Way is Up?

At first glance, Russ thought this circuit breaker was turned off. Upon closer examination, he realized it was in the ON position, despite the handle pointing in the down position. There are even two sets of ON/OFF labels facing in opposite ways that add to the confusion. For circuit breaker handles that operate in the vertical position instead of operating rotationally or horizontally, Sec. 240.81 requires the "up" position of the handle to be the ON position. This breaker is off when the handle is up and on when the handle is down. It appears this circuit breaker enclosure may have been designed to be installed upside down as well as right-side up. Installing a circuit breaker in this position may have been permitted at one point, but it has not been allowed for a very long time. It can lead to a terrible mistake if the user is not paying very close attention to the ON/OFF markings on the enclosure. Can you imagine what could happen in an emergency if this switch was accidentally thrown into the ON position when the operator thought he was shutting it off?

 P3 strives to bring you quality relevant industry related news.

See the original full article at: https://www.ecmweb.com/national-electrical-code/violations/media-gallery/21148731/the-10-craziest-code-violations-of-2020/slideshow?slide=10

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The Eaton 2021 Learning and Development Guide is here

Eaton's 2021 Learning and Development Guide offers opportunities for creating personal development plans catered to your goals. Complete with course descriptions, class schedules, registration links, and recommended training plans that cover all experience levels, it's never too early to start developing your training strategy for the new year.  

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Linemen scholarships winners from Nebraska, Kansas & Missouri!

The ILRA has been awarding scholarships to students in lineman training programs for nearly 20 years. 6 of the 9 winners are in the P3 territories! Join us in congratulating them. 

 Nearly 20 years ago, the International Lineman's Rodeo Association (ILRA) began awarding scholarships to well-deserving aspiring line program students. Today, the ILRA has given out $100,000 in scholarship money to future linemen nationwide. Each and every one of the recipients so far has had a successful career in the line trade, said Dennis Kerr, scholarship chair, which makes him proud of what the ILRA has accomplished through the scholarship program.

"Many of the scholarship recipients have competed at the International Lineman's Rodeo," Kerr said. "For example, one of the first winners works for Evergy, and for the last three years, he and his team have walked across the stage receiving many awards. One year, they were number one. It makes you feel good when you see that, and it said a lot about the program."

To apply for the scholarship, the candidates must submit a resume, personal essay and two letters of recommendation. The Scholarship Committee, including Kerr, who is retired from DTE; John Bircumshaw, retired from Rocky Mountain Power; Lawrence Kazmierski of Quanta Services; James Lake of Ameren Illinois; and Larry Aguayo of CPS Energy, then score the applications and select the winners.

When the scholarship program first began, Kerr expected to get all the applications from one school. Through personal outreach to many of the line school programs nationwide, however, he has received applications from across the country. For 2020, the ILRA even awarded scholarships to students from new programs, Kerr said. The following photo gallery showcases the 2020 winners for the ILRA Scholarship Program from states in P3's territory.

Alexandrea Bryant

Twenty-seven-year-old Alexandrea Bryant grew up with a strong interest in science and math and pursuing a career as a lawyer. While she has an immense respect for lawyers, however, she realized that she wouldn't be happy in a desk job. Since she was 15, she has worked at least two jobs to support herself and her brothers, and she has traveled around the country for different opportunities. She worked three jobs totaling 96 hours a week to save up for line school. "I want to be a lineworker for many reasons," Bryant said. "I want to be challenged physically and get out of my comfort zone. I know the value of hard work, grit and determination and having a career. I want to show my little brothers that anything is possible." 

Heston Kavanaugh

Nineteen-year-old Heston Kavanagh is pursuing a career in the line trade because he enjoys working outdoors. While he is aware of the conditions he will be working in and knows the work will be challenging, he said it will be well worth it. His brother works as an apprentice for Evergy in Pittsburg, Kansas, and he is looking forward to following in his footsteps. He is now in the power technology program at Pratt Community College following jobs working for a mechanic and a farmer. "I worked all throughout high school and maintained good grades," Kavanagh said. "I have a good work ethic and interact well with others."

Weston Pfeifer

When driving through the country after a major storm, eighteen-year-old Weston Pfeifer remembered seeing linemen working on the poles. From that point on, he knew he wanted to go into the line trade. "I knew this was for me," Pfeifer said. "My dream is to become a journeyman lineman at Midwest Energy."

Zachary Kearney

Twenty-five-year-old Zachary Kearney of Walnut Shade, Missouri, earned his bachelor's degree in multimedia communications and journalism and served as a Disney cast member before transitioning to preparing for a career in the line trade. "I always was stuck in the underlying feeling that what I was doing wasn't important," Kearney said in his application. "My Dad suggested that I become a lineman, and I thought of it to be an honorable career."

Boyd Cole

Nineteen-year-old Boyd Cole (shown with his class at Metropolitan Community College-Kansas City) decided to follow in his dad's footsteps by pursuing a career in the line trade. "I know it is demanding and dangerous, but it is also rewarding and has a good pay scale," Cole said. He is now pursuing his associate's degree in power distribution from Metropolitan Community College, and he said the scholarship will help with out-of-pocket expenses during his schooling.

Caden Adkins

Caden Adkins, the son of a lineman, has line work in his blood and has spent many years watching his father compete at the Rodeo. After graduating with his associate's degree in electric power distribution, Caden Adkins is looking forward to a career as an electrical lineman and eventually as a troubleshooter. Adkins, who has his eye on a future career with Wheatland Electric or Evergy, applied for the scholarship to help pay for his schooling. "I enjoy being outside and working with my hands," Adkins said.

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Eaton Experience Center training through an online, accredited education program.

Power engineering applications are growing more complex. That's why we're offering the best of our in-person Eaton Experience Center training through an online, accredited education program.

Learn the designs, technologies and installation best practices for today's most advanced power applications across 24 professional-development classes—and get credit for it with professional development hours from the Registered Continuing Education Program (RCEP) for select courses, from the experts who power what matters.

Take part in four on-demand learning tracks complete with Experience Center demonstrations and Q&A sessions designed to energize your career: 

        • Systems built to help ensure reliability and resiliency
        • Products and processes that power efficiency
        • Codes, standards and procedures that make safety a top priority
        • The latest in power engineering technologies

Two live Q&A sessions led by Eaton experts

Turn to our live mid-day and wrap-up Q&A sessions for deeper insights into today's most challenging power engineering applications.

Register now for this important educational and training event

Courses, product demonstrations and expert-led Q&A sessions kick off December 8. Be sure to join our welcome session at 9:45 a.m. EST.

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