What are smart GRIDS?
Smart grids are future-ready power grids.
They are enhanced with modern information and communications technologies (ICT), monitoring and automation tools that allow for a more efficient management of your community’s energy needs. By seeing what is happening on the grid in terms of energy use and production, energy activity can be actively managed in the best way, guaranteeing you a more reliable supply of electricity in a cost and resource efficient way.
Why do we need them?
The main reason we need to smarten our grids is our changing energy system, in particular the move away from electricity produced from fossil fuels to electricity produced from renewable energy sources, but also changes in our energy needs.
Current supply system
Our traditional power grid has not changed in decades. It was designed for large power plants to simply produce the exact amount of energy you and your community needs, when it needs it. In this system, if you and others demand more electricity by switching lights and washing machines on, more electricity is generated by the power plants.
New, changing realities for supply and energy needs
Today’s changing energy realities bring risks of instability to your electricity supply, because our power grids have to cope with significant new challenges. While the traditional power grid transfers electricity in one direction from the large power plants all the way to you, the consumer, the smart grid can transfer electricity both ways. Why is this important? It means that smart grids can integrate these new types of electricity production, including energy produced in your home.
What is changing in our energy system?
1. LARGER SHARE OF RENEWABLES
We are increasing our use of electricity produced by wind turbines and solar panels. This relies on the wind blowing or the sun shining, which means the electricity produced is not as constant or controllable as when coming from traditional fossil fuel power plants.
2. GROWING AND CHANGING ENERGY NEEDS
Continuity to the supply of electricity is important for modern society. Our energy needs are growing along with our population. The way we use energy is also changing due to external factors such as hotter summers (more use of air conditioning in the middle of the day) and harsher winters (more heating in the evenings).
Furthermore, the rise of new and greener modes of transport like electric cars and buses require large amounts of electricity when being charged, but could one day also serve as batteries when connected to the grid.
3. CONSUMERS ARE BECOMING PROSUMERS
More consumers are becoming "prosumers", producing their own electricity, for example, from wind turbines or solar panels connected to their home. In some places, this home produced energy can be fed back into the local grid, which was not possible in the past.