How Smart Grids Can Change the Future of Energy

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Traditionally, an electrical grid is an interconnected network of transmission lines, substations, transformers and more that delivers electricity from the power plant to your home or business. Nigeria’s current electricity grid was built over 50 years ago but has been improved with the advancement of technology over time. Today it consists of over 20 generating units with a generating capacity of 12000MW (only about 5000MW is generated) connected to more than 20,000KM of transmission lines.

It can be said that Nigeria’s power sector isn’t performing at full capacity, the electricity grid is generally considered an engineering marvel. However, what happens when the current grid reaches its full capacity? To move forward, we need a new kind of electric grid, one that can handle the groundswell of digital and computerized equipment and technology dependent on it—and one that can automate and manage the increasing complexity and needs of electricity in the 21st Century.

 

What are Smart Grids?

Smart grids are electrical grids which includes a variety of operational and energy measures which include smart meters, smart appliances, renewable energy resources and energy efficient resources. Electronic power conditioning and control of the production and distribution of electricity are important aspects of the smart grid. Smart grid allow for two-way communication between the utility company and its customers, they sensors along their transmission lines.

Like the Internet, Smart Grids consist of controls, computers, automation, and new technologies and equipment working together. All these technologies will work with the electrical grid to make it more efficient, more reliable, more secure and greener. It’ll help the grid respond digitally to the quickly changing electricity demand of electricity customers.

Smart Grids represent an extraordinary opportunity to move the energy industry into a new era of reliability, availability, and efficiency. They also enable the integration of renewable energy like wind and solar energy.

 

What makes a Grid “Smart”?

In January 2007, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA-2007) was approved by the US Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush. It listed the following characteristics of a Smart Grid:

  • Increased use of digital information and controls technology to improve reliability, security, and efficiency of the electric grid.
  • Dynamic optimization of grid operations and resources, with full cyber-security.
  • Deployment and integration of distributed resources and generation, including renewable resources.
  • Development and incorporation of demand response, demand-side resources, and energy-efficiency resources.
  • Deployment of ‘smart’ technologies (real-time, automated, interactive technologies that optimize the physical operation of appliances and consumer devices) for metering, communications concerning grid operations and status, and distribution automation.
  • Integration of ‘smart’ appliances and consumer devices.
  • Deployment and integration of advanced electricity storage and peak-shaving technologies, including plug-in electric and hybrid electric vehicles, and thermal storage air conditioning.
  • Provision to consumers of timely information and control options.
  • Development of standards for communication and interoperability of appliances and equipment connected to the electric grid, including the infrastructure serving the grid.
  • Identification and lowering of unreasonable or unnecessary barriers to adoption of smart grid technologies, practices, and services.

An important element is the application of digital processing and communications to the power grid. This makes data flow and information management central to the smart grid. Various capabilities result from the deeply integrated use of digital technology with power grids.

Integration of the new grid information is one of the key issues in the design of smart grids. Electric utilities may find themselves making three classes of transformations: improvement of infrastructure, called the strong grid in China; the addition of the digital layer, which is the essence of the smart grid; and business process transformation, necessary to capitalize on the investments in smart technology.

 

Benefits of Smart Grids

Smart grids will contribute to the economic growth and environmental health of any nation. Its benefits include:

  • More efficient transmission of electricity
  • Quicker restoration of electricity after power disturbances
  • Reduced operations and management costs for utilities, and ultimately lower power costs for consumers
  • Lowered electricity rates
  • Increased integration of large-scale renewable energy systems
  • Better integration of customer-owner power generation systems, including renewable energy systems
  • Improved security

 

A smart grid will add resiliency to our electric power System and make it better prepared to address emergencies and reduce power outages. Because of its two-way interactive capacity, the Smart Grid will allow for automatic rerouting when equipment fails or outages occur. This will minimize outages and minimize the effects when they do happen.

When a power outage occurs, Smart Grid technologies will detect and isolate the outages, containing them before they become large-scale blackouts. In addition, the Smart Grid will take greater advantage of customer-owned power generators to produce power when it is not available from utilities.

The Smart Grid is also a way to address an ageing energy infrastructure that needs to be upgraded or replaced. It’s a way to address energy efficiency, to bring increased awareness to consumers about the connection between electricity use and the environment.

Giving Consumers Control

The Smart Grid is not just about utilities and technologies; it is about giving you the information and tools you need to make choices about your energy use. If you already manage activities such as personal banking from your home computer, imagine managing your electricity in a similar way.

A smarter grid will enable an unprecedented level of consumer participation. For example, you will no longer have to wait for your monthly statement to know how much electricity you use. With a smarter grid, you can have a clear and timely picture of it. “Smart meters,” and other mechanisms, will allow you to see how much electricity you use when you use it, and its cost. Combined with real-time pricing, this will allow you to save money by carefully planning energy use.

While the potential benefits of the Smart Grid are usually discussed in terms of economics and renewable energy goals, the Smart Grid has the potential to help you save money by helping you to manage your electricity use and choose the best times to purchase electricity. And you can save even more by generating your own power.

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