Grid modernisation key to renewable energy integration


Ram Rajagopal, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University, California undertook a study evaluating how modernising the electric grid with the plethora of smart grid technologies available can 1) be used to gather consumer consumption data to develop programmes in an effort to reduce peak demand, and 2) To what  extent these programmes increases customer interest and involvement in their energy use, motivating them to change their time of use and quantity so as to balance out demand. Rajagopal states that in using smart technologies in creating a more intelligent and responsive grid will increase the viability of renewable energies to cover the bulk of electricity demand. The professor’s goal as the Stanford report states is the ‘Development of a smart grid that matches load with demand and increases use of sustainable energy’. He notes that while renewable energy has its merits in supplying cleaner energy, these sources are volatile and often unreliable.

He poses the question: ‘How do you maintain grid reliability while increasing your sustainable energy sources?’. His answer: ‘The best solution is to boost the intelligence of the electrical grid … the grid’s IQ will further be enhanced by the expanding ‘Internet of things’’. Stanford reporter, Glen Martin, says that this ‘increases connectivity between the Internet and infrastructure’

Rajagopal took his study further by investing the effectiveness of Californian utility, PG&E’s SmartRate program which incentivises customers to decrease consumption during peak hours. Based on the given data supplied by PG&E, Rajaopal found that there is great variability as to when electricity is used. He identified 272 different “load shapes” representing the customers consumption patterns at different peak hours.

‘We found that 60 percent of daily load is variable, meaning there were some major opportunities for peak shifting – moving consumption around so it was more even’

He concludes saying that by ‘leveling out demand, notoriously fickle wind and solar power can be integrated smoothly into the grid’. Energy storage he notes can further increase the reliability of renewable energy to power the grid.

As for the financial benefit for consumers – ‘If you buy your personal peak power off the general peak, you could save 20 to 70 percent on your electricity bill’ says Rajagoopal.