What is a Smart Grid?
"A smart grid is an electricity network that uses digital and other advanced technologies to monitor and manage the transport of electricity from all generation sources to meet the varying electricity demands of end-users. Smart grids co-ordinate the needs and capabilities of all generators, grid operators, end-users and electricity market stakeholders to operate all parts of the system as efficiently as possible, minimising costs and environmental impacts while maximising system reliability, resilience and stability.
Smart grids are an evolving set of technologies that will be deployed at different rates in a variety of settings around the world, depending on local commercial attractiveness, compatibility with existing technologies, regulatory developments and investment frameworks."
(International Energy Agency, Smart Grids Technology Roadmap, 2011)
More useful information on the basics of Smart Grid :
Environmental Defense Fund: http://www.edf.org/climate/smart-grid-overview
Interntational Electrotechnical Comission: http://www.iec.ch/smartgrid/background/explained.htm
Edison Electric Institute: http://smartgrid.eei.org/Pages/FAQs.aspx
The benefits of a Smart Grid
The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) states that the "Modern Grid" will have seven key benefits for consumers, business, utilities and the Nation:
Self-Healing A smart grid automatically detects and responds to routine problems and quickly recovers if they occur, minimizing downtime and financial loss.
Motivates and Includes the Consumer A smart grid gives all consumers - industrial, commercial, and residential - visibility into real-time pricing, and affords them the opportunity to choose the volume of consumption and price that best suits their needs.
Resists Attack A smart grid has security built-in from the ground up.
Provides Power Quality for 21st Century Needs A smart grid provides power free of sags, spikes, disturbances and interruptions. It is suitable for use by the data centers, computers, electronics and robotic manufacturing that will power our future economy.
Accommodates All Generation and Storage Options A smart grid enables "plug-and-play" interconnection to multiple and distributed sources of power and storage (e.g., wind, solar, battery storage, etc.)
Enables Markets By providing consistently dependable coast-to-coast operation, a smart grid supports energy markets that encourage both investment and innovation.
Optimizes Assets and Operates Efficiently A smart grid enables us to build less new infrastructure, transmit more power through existing systems, and thereby spend less to operate and maintain the grid.
Elements of the Smart Grid
Is a generic term for electronic meters with a communication link. "Advanced Metering Infrastructure" (AMI) allows remote meter configuration, dynamic tariffs, power quality monitoring and load control. Advanced systems integrate the metering infrastructure with distribution automation.
Uses power electronics to control harmonics, fault ride-through and fluctuating generation from renewables. It helps increase the flexibility of conventional fossil fuel power plants enabling their use to counter-balance intermittent power generation.
Will enable demand response and lies at the interface between distribution management and building automation.
Security of a critical infrastructure has always been an issue. However Smart Grid solutions will see an enormous increase in the exchange of data both to improve control and observation. The security of this data exchange and the physical components behind it will have be increasingly important.