From the meter to the grid – Global trends

nicholas mc new

In tracking markets globally, investment in smart grid technology is being prioritised and reflects acceptance of new market drivers. These include energy efficiency, climate change mitigation and increased customer participation. The business environment for utilities has developed new rules for competition; no longer how much energy can you sell, but how smartly can you distribute it?

The European commission recently released a research document entitled “Towards smarter power networks”. As Director of the Directorate-General for Research, Pablo Fernández Ruiz, notes in his introduction: “The initial objectives of this new area are to increase the efficiency, safety and reliability of the European electricity and gas system and networks, e.g. by transforming the current electricity grids into an interactive (customers/operators) service network, and to remove the technical obstacles to the largescale deployment and effective integration of distributed and renewable energy sources”.

The report goes on to state: “The electricity networks of the future will be based to a large extent on new power electronics and ICT applications, some of which have already been in use in other sectors of industry for decades. Synergies from these new developments and specific ICT solutions for the power sector, such as distributed intelligent control, a new internet generation model, etc., which are still in their initial stages today, should be further developed.”

Smart Metering and the advanced metering infrastructure form the back-bone of this smart future, and there is barely a country left that is not in some way piloting this technology.

In China, the Joint US-China Cooperation for Clean Energy (JUCCCE) recently launched the JUCCCE China Smart Grid Cooperative to bring together Smart Grid experts across the world to work closely with China’s two utilities and key influencers to jointly define Smart Grid in a way that makes sense in China.

Hu Xuehao of the China Electric Power Research Institute points out many differences in incentives between China and the West. In western countries, the emphasis is on the distribution grid, while in China, the current emphasis is on the transmission grid. In USA, Europe and Japan, solar panels are installed on rooftops, while in China solar farms will mainly be installed in desert areas.

“The scale at which China is deploying means that China can single-handedly help set the worldwide Smart Grid communications standard early on”, according to Jim Rogers, Chairman of Duke Energy and JUCCCE Honorary Committee member.

China represents one of the greatest revenue opportunities for companies focussed on Smart Grid technology and services.

In Australia, State Governments and utilities have invested billions of dollars in electricity infrastructure. Estimates indicate that the adoption of smart grid technologies could save the nation A$5 to 8 billion (US$3 to 5 billion) over the next 20 years. In its mission statement is observes: “Smart Grid Australia is about climate change, the environment, energy saving, safety, security, reliability, and efficiency. It is also about getting in on the ground floor of an enormous new market. Working together, we can overcome the enormous challenges we face as a nation and the barriers that are standing in the way of some of the solutions and move quickly toward the adoption of an intelligent, digitally empowered electric system.

This global trend is highly empowering to an industry that thrives on innovation, and the potential benefits for the planet are awesome. This issue comprises of some the best expert opinion and analysis available in the industry and I know it will be a rewarding read.

Nicholas McDiarmid Editor,
Smart Energy International