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Some reflections on Smart Grids and the role of the ICT Sector

 

The International Energy Agency Technology Roadmap – Smart Grids, 2011 states that “The world’s electricity systems face a number of challenges, including ageing infrastructure, continued growth in demand, the integration of increasing numbers of variable renewable energy sources and electric vehicles, the need to improve the security of supply and the need to lower carbon emissions. Smart grid technologies offer ways not just to meet these challenges but also to develop a cleaner energy supply that is more energy efficient, more affordable and more sustainable.”

 

 The European Technology Platform for the Electricity Networks of the Future, also known as Smart Grids ETP, defines the Smart Grid as “an electricity network that can intelligently integrate the actions of all users connected to it – generators, consumers and those that do both – in order to efficiently deliver sustainable, economic and secure electricity supplies”.

 

By employing innovative products and services coupled with intelligent monitoring, control, communication and self-healing technologies, Smart Grids:

 

-          facilitate and manage the connection and operation of all sources of energy;

 

-          give consumers more choice so they can help to optimize energy use;

 

-          provide consumers with greater information and choice of supply;

 

-          significantly reduce the environmental impact of the whole electricity supply system;

 

-          deliver enhanced levels of reliability and security of supply.

 

The combined deployment of ICT technologies links devices and information, market and economic considerations to engage users, environmental impacts, regulatory framework, standards for interoperability, management of social and government requirements as well as transformation strategies to handle the new environment.

 

According to the Smart Grid Information Clearinghouse, the various technologies that enable smart grid operations can be grouped into five key areas, which are the following:

 

-          advanced components, such as smart meters, current limiters, programmable thermostats, etc. that play a key role in determining the electrical behaviour of the grid and can be applied either in standalone applications or connected together;

 

-          advanced control methods, such as distributed control systems, fault locators, appliance controllers, etc. which are the devices and algorithms that analyse, diagnose and predict conditions in the grid and determine which corrective actions should be put in place to prevent outages or power quality disturbances;

 

-          sensing and measurement technologies, such as monitoring systems which control the health and the integrity of various elements of the grid, like cables, transformers, circuit breakers as well as current sensors and advanced metering infrastructures:

 

-          improved interfaces and decision support, such as consumer gateways, power distribution and transmission analysis and system visualisation software, etc. which represent the tools needed to operate a modern grid, providing human operators with easy to understand and usable information;

 

-          integrated communications, such as various information exchange and data transmission networks and protocols (DSL, FTTH, Wi-Fi, PLC, 3G and LTE) which allow real-time information and power exchange, enabling easy and quick interaction with various intelligent devices integrated in the system.

 

Although electricity consumption only represents 17% of final energy use today, it leads to 40% of global CO2 emissions, largely because almost 70% of electricity is produced from fossil fuels (IEA, 2010). In the IEA Energy Technology Perspective “BLUE Map Scenario” (2010), as a result of decarbonisation, electricity generation contributes only 21% of global CO2 emissions, representing an annual reduction of over 20 Gt of CO2 by 2050. Smart grid technologies will be needed to enable these emissions reductions.

 

Direct reductions will occur through feedback on energy usage, lower line losses, accelerated deployment of energy efficiency programmes, continuous commissioning of service sector load, and energy savings due to peak load management. Indirect benefits arise from smart grid support for the wider introduction of electric vehicles and variable renewable generation (IEA, 2011).

 

Within this framework is very important to mention that the role of the ICT sector is critical to accelerate the introduction of smart grids in Europe. It is required several public-private partnerships to accelerate this introduction also considering favourable policy frameworks and agreed standards.

 

Due to the great advantages that smart grids present, ETNO organised a workshop last month where the ICT sector, the Power industry and policy makers gathered to find synergies, identify opportunities and share a common view for the successful development of broadband networks and smart grids in Europe.

 

 

Danilo Riva, Chairman of the Corporate Responsibility Working Group of ETNO.

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Lourdes Tejedor / @madrid2day

Telefónica Public Policy & Telefónica España Regulatory teams