What Is A Smart Grid and How Does It Work

You know, the grid, that system of transformers, substations, a network of transmission lines that bring electricity into our homes? Well, in the age of smart homes, the age-old electric grid is set to get a makeover as well and come into the 21st century after all.

Technology has literally grown at a weed-like pace in the last couple of decades, but our electric grid, something we rely on everyday to bring power into our homes, has not quite received the love it deserves. It has not been modernised at that pace. With combining information technology, it is possible to make power delivery efficient, and what is being called smart.

Issues With Time-Tested Electric Grid

electrical distribution

Why fix what is working, yes? Well, the fact is that the electric grid that we have today has decades old equipment that is wearing out, and population growth has overloaded the current system.

The grid is becoming more fragile on one end, with flailing stability, and on the other hand, there is a huge influx of electronic devices in our houses that is very sensitive to even small variations. Reliability is becoming a serious issue.

Need For Smart Electric Grid

Many argue that issues could be solved just by adding more transmission lines, but it must be noted that most people do not appreciate having more power lines in the area. On top of that, the core issues will still remain, such as the old, ageing, unreliable equipment that is simply not up to the standards demanded by today’s equipment. So what will work better is bettering the efficiency of the delivery system, increasing the reliability as well. The efficiency increase also has an effect on reducing energy overheads in the delivery process.

Concept of Smart Grid

The concept of the smart grid is pretty simple, actually. It builds on technologies already in use but adds relevant communication and control capabilities to optimise the grid, thereby, making it smart. The addition of monitoring, analysis, communication and control capabilities to reduce energy delivery overheads and to maximise efficiency is the underlying idea behind smart grids. Smart grids allow for two-way communication between the users and the utility.

Functions of Smart Grid

Electrical Meter Box

The major consumer facing advantages of smart grids include quicker restoration in case of disturbances and lower energy rates. The reduced peak demand serves to reduce the electricity rates, whereas for the utility company, there is a reduction in operational and management costs and more efficient transmission which, in turn, also helps reducing the rates of electricity for end users.

Security is improved, too. In modern times, we depend heavily on electricity, all of our infrastructure is electricity dependent such as banking, security, communications, even traffic.

Furthermore, in winters, an electric blackout can endanger lives of people due to cold. Smart grids are better prepared to deal with such emergencies owing to their two-way interaction, and can automatically reroute whenever there is outage or a failure, therefore, minimise the domino effect of outages when and if they occur.

There is another important advantage of smart grids, and it is better utilisation of customer-owned and operated power generation equipment, including renewable energy systems. This distributed energy generation will help when power is not available from the utility companies and communities could utilise and mobilise these distributed generation systems during power outage emergencies.

Real-time troubleshooting is also possible with smart grids, as through the monitoring and analysis, faults can be pinpointed and addressed immediately and improve efficiency and save time.

Smart Grids: Smart Users

Smart grids are not only about deploying technologies to make the energy generation and distribution more efficient. As our energy consumption increases, we also need to make our users more aware of the energy consumption and this can be achieved with smart grids as it allows customer participation.

Helping consumers manage their electricity usage is one of the ways smart grids benefit the nation and its people, in general, since users can actively monitor their energy usage and can take steps right away. By tapping into customer-owned power generation systems, users can also save money by purchasing electricity only when they need it and possibly avoid paying a high price for electricity.

Smart grids will also be able to handle the increased adoption of electric vehicles as people will need a reliable and low-cost source of electricity to fuel their vehicles and the efficiency offered by smart grids can help offset some of the costs and reduce the cost to the end user as well as the electric companies.