Our lives have changed significantly due to social distancing and sanitary guidelines in place that limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Our schools, workplaces, and free time have now transitioned into a singular space: our homes. These changes have shifted the ways in which we invest our time and money. In March 2020 alone, Forbes reported that signups for Disney+ tripled, HBO signups increased 90%, and Netflix subscriptions rose 47% since the start of the pandemic. An increased need for a reliable network in our homes has paved the way for fifth-generation (5G) technology. Not only do these changes affect our personal lives, but also our energy consumption and electric bills.
The Transition to 5G
While 5G technology appears as a simple change in our mobile capabilities, the technology requires more energy than the fourth generation (4G) network. The increase in energy usage will likely have an impact on utilities and their reliability as infrastructure adapts to 5G. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has committed to expedite 5G, forcing utilities to quickly execute the needed infrastructure upgrades within set time frames. With the pressure of meeting these demands, utilities may rush installing new infrastructure that may create problems for energy use such as blackouts from strains on the electricity grid. Additionally, utilities, like other companies, are experiencing interference with their workforce from COVID-19, which causes issues with outage restoration efforts, operations, and general maintenance. The changes in energy consumption are happening quickly. Maintaining a reliable connection with their workplaces and schools is top priority for people whether or not they choose to transition to 5G.
While the 5G integration in communities is not widespread yet, 5G is changing the way we interact with other technologies by increasing the speed and connectivity of multiple devices simultaneously. In your home, 5G will allow for things like smart TVs, home speakers, toys, wearables, and smart appliances to connect with minimal delay. For 5G networks to function properly, a vast number of small radio sites will require an electric supply to support millimeter waves with a higher frequency than the radio wavelengths used in 4G. While greater space and connectivity in 5G is appealing to customers, new millimeter technology will require more energy to operate.
It is important to note that the conversion to 5G will cause many users to discard some, if not all, of their current devices that were built to run on 4G. The manufacturing and maintenance of 5G-compatible technology will yield electronic waste and excess consumption of resources, creating detrimental effects on the environment. Even though some of these devices promise lower energy use, the energy consumption from producing and using 50 billion new devices will surpass the energy consumption of today’s electronics.
Using Solar to Offset Growing Energy Costs
If COVID-19 normalizes workplaces and schools at home, then homeowners will be responsible for the costs of their increased energy use. Electricity prices will continue to climb without alternative sources of energy. The key to adapting our infrastructure to fit society’s energy demands is solar power and other renewable sources of energy.
Your electricity bill includes two primary charges: one for procuring the actual electricity that you consume–your supply charge–and one for getting that electricity to your house–the transmission and distribution charge. Installing solar reduces your utility company’s need to produce electricity, which decreases the amount of electricity that needs to be moved across transmission and distribution lines. As populations grow and more people need more electricity, transmission and distribution systems become stressed. Melissa Lott, a researcher at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, noted that during times of economic turmoil, electricity demand is “relatively more stable under economic distress” but this isn’t the case with the recession the pandemic has caused. Families are spending more time at home and demanding more energy. With the uncertainty of electric rates and supply of fossil fuels, solar panels help reduce costs for homeowners and add support to work and learn from home with a 5G network.
History shows that periods of crisis are often when structural changes accelerate. Oil demand was already slowing, and the pandemic seems likely to push us into a new era in technology. Adapting to life in a pandemic has led families to search for a reliable connection to support workplaces and educational needs. However, moving towards a new network means evaluating the effect it will have on our energy consumption and environment. It also means that there will be strain on the electric grid without updated infrastructure. Without 5G-ready infrastructure, utility companies will have difficulty adjusting to increased power needs. The easiest way to avoid using electricity from the grid is getting solar panels.
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Solar energy is one solution to support energy demands in a clean and cost-effective way without placing further pressure on the grid. Fill out the form below to get started with solar.