Smart Grid: A Guide for Reinventing Innovation in Energy Distribution

By CIOReview | Thursday, July 7, 2016

The growth of smart cities has resulted into a considerable rise in the rate of energy consumption across the globe. Currently, half of the world's population resides in cities and the figures are expected to increase in three quarters by 2050. To cope with this rapid surge of urban growth, we need to invent and implement new methods for effective energy management. Deploying digital technologies such as a smart grid will bestow a new ecosystem of services; enhancing the quality of life and reducing the overall energy consumption.

A Grid Focusing on “Smart” Possibilities

Smart grid possesses the fortitude to transform the energy industry with its ability to imbue environmental and economical stability. It involves major tasks such as detailed testing, consumer education, improvement in standards and regulations, and information sharing between projects. In short, smart grid is a digital technology that enables a two-way communication between the utility and its customers, and effectively senses the transmission lines.

Enhanced Security

A smart grid is known as the ‘Energy Internet’ that yields the capability of transforming the entire electric power infrastructure into a two-way network based on a standard Internet Protocol (IP) network. Instead of using a single plant with high production, it uses a large number of discreetly distributed plants. This innovative concept effectively reduces the risk of terrorist attacks and natural disasters such as earthquakes, storms and solar flares. Even if a major complication occurs, the smart grid acts as a self-healing network and restores itself immediately by isolating the particular line and re-routing the power supply. Additionally, it takes benefit of the customer-owned power generators to yield power when it is not available from the utilities.

Improving Consumers Interaction by Granting Control

Smart Grid delivers a plethora of information and tools you need to make the choices about your use of energy. If you can manage a variety of activities from your personal computer, you can also manage electricity at your comfort. The grid encourages an exceptional level of consumer participation. For instance, you will exactly know about your electricity usage before you receive your monthly statement. "Smart meters" and other forms of mechanisms will display the total amount of electricity you use, its cost and when you use it. With the real-time pricing feature, the mechanisms will help you save money by using less power when the electricity is expensive during peak hours i.e. weekends and holidays. Apart from the potential benefits of smart grid, it also has the ability to support renewable energy goals and economics.

Key Benefits

How smart grid can save my money? How does the technology benefit my daily life as an energy user? These are the most commonly asked questions which form a base for understanding the benefit of smart grid on a daily basis, and here you will find answers to some of these queries.

Saves your money: Using advance metering capabilities, the utilities offers demand response programs. They are designed specifically to assist the energy users in cutting down the usage of power during cold spells and heat waves, minimizing peak-demand periods on the grid and effectively saving your money.

Houses all storage and generation options:

Apart from the traditional large power plants, a smart grid also accommodates the growing customer-based distributed energy resources. Integration of these resources involves renewable, small-scale heat, energy and power storage.

Manages the consumption of energy: Digital metering allows users to keep an eye on their household energy usage; effectively reducing excess wastage. It gives seamless access to their electric consumption data even during high-energy peak usage hours, keeping them well informed about the available energy options.

Delivers Optimum power quality:

All commercial enterprises and residential customers do not need the same quality of power; smart grid supplies a variety of quality grades of power. The cost of premium quality power can also be included in the electrical service contract. Advanced control methods enables rapid diagnosis and solutions, responding to events that affect the power quality such as lightning, harmonic sources, line faults and switching surges.

Offers Reliable Energy: Smart meters have the ability to report the location of an outage event electrically before a user calls to register a complaint. The process makes restoration faster and with hassle-free status notification alert to users.

Empowers Environment Protection: The air pollution fostered by the utility industry is expected to see a drop by 30 percent in the coming decade due to smart grids—saving approximately 34,000 lives annually. The grid will also ensure development of renewable power sources such as solar plants, wind farms and hydro stations.

Benefits for Utilities: Utilities that successfully deploys smart grid will be able to utilize big data and analytics; aiming to understand their customers and enhance the level of customer satisfaction. This is crucial as more distributed and renewable generation resources are added to the grid. As most of the world's energy markets vary, each utility must implement its own smart grid strategy and objectives respecting the current policy framework in its market with the local market's unique priorities and regulatory issues.

Benefits for Consumers: The three main smart grid benefits for consumers are:

• Assisting consumers to save money by limiting the use of electricity or reducing consumption during peak hours. Studies indicate energy savings of about 5-10 percent and peak reduction of about 10-20 percent.
• Boosting system efficiency and reliability through faster restoration and reduced outages. After deploying smart meters, one utility can reduce outages by 50 percent.
• Adding more renewable resources on the grid triggers a broad consumer support on a global platform. Smart grid delivers automated responses to the fluctuating solar and wind levels. Studies state that more than 60 percent solar can be accommodated by a smart grid.

Smart grid technology can prove to be beneficial for several developing countries focused on building up their electricity system infrastructure. Effective collaboration between the developed and developing countries can serve as a driving force for identifying and solving major issues associated with the energy distribution.