Everybody talk about Smart Grids. But practically speaking, what the hell is that? We all understand how electricity comes to our house (through a grid). However, what makes a smart grid different from today’s grid? What are the benefits of smart grid technology? Is it really necessary?
Smart Grid – or digital grid – uses the same digital technology used in industries such as telecommunications to enable two-way communications between Utilities, DSO/TSO and end customers. Think of it as an energy network that delivers improved reliability and virtually unlimited opportunities for customers to take control of their energy usage and costs.
Today’s grid is very similar to a typewriter with its manual operation and limited options. It was designed nearly a century ago to do one thing – deliver electricity to homes and businesses. It’s a massive, dependable machine, but it provides limited information, so there is little automation and interaction. Digital technology will enable the information and control consumers need to save energy and money. It will improve and enable the integration of more renewable energy resources, while enabling more efficient and reliable electric vehicle charging.
As an example, in our highly connected information world, it shouldn’t take 30 days for you to get information about how much energy you’ve used and how much it costs. By then, it’s too late to take actions to help you lower your energy bill. The digital grid will make near-real time information available to you, which you can use to control your energy use and costs.
Smart, digital technologies – combined with in-home energy management systems, new energy-efficiency programs, improved communication tools and customer-sited renewable energy sources, such as rooftop solar panels – will benefit our customers, our company and the environment:
- Customers will have tools and information to better understand their energy usage and manage their monthly energy bills.
- Smart appliances and plug-in vehicles will be integrated with the power grid.
- Utilities and DSO/TSO will have more precise information about outages, which will help them respond faster to restore service.
- They’ll be able to proactively detect and quickly resolve problems, prevent and shorten outages, and improve service, reliability and power quality for customers.
- This will communicate system-wide to make micro-adjustments, if needed, to balance energy load and help reduce needs to buy extra power to meet customer demand.
- Finally, this will help integrate electrical Renewable Energies more easily within the existing grid, offering solutions to realtime offset and avoid generate extra power.
Nevertheless, barriers are numerous before achieving a Europe-wide Electricity Smart Grid. If you want to dig into this subject, have a look at this report edited by EURELECTRIC, the sector association which represents the common interests of the electricity industry at pan-European level, plus its affiliates and associates on several other continents.
Source: Duke Energy, Eurelectric, Vincent BRYANT
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