Grid Smartness

Smartness definitely comes from better suited, but not necessarily from more ICT

Most agree that electric grids must become smarter. But what is "smart"? Smart Grid is mainly associated with “Smart Meter”.

A Smart Meter is an electronic replacement of electro-mechanical meters. It collects information on energy consumption, with the hope that energy visibility converts energy users to conscious consumers. Then variable tariffs can influence their behavior. They also inform grid operators what their customers do, which raises concerns in many countries. Smart meters do not directly increase flexibility, but somehow the information gathered leads to new ideas for more flexibility. Results cannot be expected before full Smart Meter rollout. "Smart Grid 1.0" was based on the old market design. Experience gathered already shows new approaches are needed, primarily for cost and security reasons.

Mr. Dubose [former chief of the US Justice Department's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Division] said: "Government officials say there's plenty of evidence that hackers have made their way into the 200,000 miles of transmission lines that provide electricity to more than 300 million people.” Coral Davenport (2013): Why the Smart Grid Might Be a Dumb Idea, National Journal (27/06/2014)

Smart Grid 2.0 focusses on objectives and how best to get there. Key discussion points are:

  • Keep central responsibility of a grid “master” that controls everything, or change to a decentral structure like the internet?
  • Do we bet on cost reductions of batteries to provide flexibility, on decentral flexibility, or both?
  • What kind of ICT is needed to organize critical infrastructure?

Smart Grid 2.0 aims to balance different aspects of a 100% renewable energy system:

  • Performance (availability/security of supply, robustness against external impacts)
  • System cost (storage, grid infrastructure, communication, end user equipment, control centers)
  • Infrastructure flexibility (migrate and adapt over time)
  • Data protection, security (data privacy, cyber security)

Easy Smart Grid approaches Smart Grid 2.0 with two key elements

  • Cellular Grids: Large grids are built by connecting self-managing cells (similar to data grids and the Internet)
  • Real Time Markets: Generation and consumption are balanced by real time prices (the faster, the lower the need for expensive short term flexibility)