France's smart grid project Sogrid
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IEA Guide to Developing smart grid
The How2Guide aims to help government and utilities formulate a plan to develop and implement smart grid technology for distribution networks

The International Energy Agency’s How2Guide for Smart Grids in Distribution Networks (Distribution SG H2G) seeks to provide decision makers with tools and steps for developing and implementing a strategic plan for smart grids at the national, regional or municipal level.

It is the second in the International Energy Agency (IEA) series of How2Guides (H2Gs) that seek to guide the reader through the key steps to developing and implementing a roadmap for a given technology, sector or system.

The series has been initiated under the framework of the IEA International Low-Carbon Energy Technology Platform, a key tool for IEA engagement with partner countries on low-carbon energy technologies.

As the global energy demand continues to rise, and with it human-induced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, the need grows stronger for low-carbon technologies to play a prominent role in limiting a temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius (2°C) by 2050.

Improvements in energy efficiency and increased use of renewable energy sources will be instrumental to the decarbonisation of electricity generation necessary to achieve the IEA Energy Technology Perspectives (ETP) 2°C Scenario (2DS).

 Benefits of smart grids

With the capabilities to modernise grid systems, smart grid technologies are considered critical infrastructural components for the energy sector in an era of climate change. If successfully planned and implemented, smart grids can offer a host of benefits for widely developed and less-extended electricity grids alike.

These benefits enable informed customer choices about consumption, accommodate electricity generation and storage options, and optimise asset utilisation and operating efficiency in response to issues of the variability of renewable energy and resilience to disturbances, attacks and natural disasters.

For grid systems in emerging and developing countries, smart grids can offer these benefits as microgrid configurations that have the option of then later being connected to regional or national grids.

Smart grids are made up of a suite of advanced technologies, yet they provide a more “human” element to customer interaction with energy use that is missing from most electricity infrastructure.

Smarter grids enable consumers to use energy more prudently in a variety of ways, such as through controls and communication technologies that enhance the efficiency of home appliances, and with electricity pricing that can incentivise more sustainable patterns of energy consumption, from the scale of neighbourhoods, to regions and countries.

Ultimately, with greater information flows on how, when and where power is consumed, future energy systems can be designed and operated to more closely match customer’s needs. The possibilities for an energy sector transition through smart grids have only begun to be realised.

Project applications can be driven by a simple need to replace an outdated technology aimed to accomplish energy savings. Or, as exemplified by the case studies from South Korea and China in this report, smart grid projects can provide the foundation for fully transformed ecological urban development.

In short, smart grids can play a fundamental role in global efforts to pave the path towards a more secure, sustainable and innovative energy future, and this How2Guide for Smart Grids in Distribution Networks is one small part of the IEA efforts to support that transition. This publication is produced under my authority as Executive Director of the IEA.