Smart grid ICT energy requirements must be considered, new ITU report finds


Geneva, Switzerland — (METERING.COM) — October 22, 2012 – While information and communication technologies (ICTs) form the basis of smart grids, which can improve the efficiency of energy production, management, distribution and consumption, their introduction should take into account their own energy requirements, a new report from the ITU suggests.

ICT equipment consumes energy and this extra energy consumption could be quite significant, says the report. This leads to the conclusion that any ICT architectural choice and any implementation should focus first on its own efficiency.

From the energy efficiency perspective, the deployment of additional communication infrastructures for smart grids should carefully consider the trade-off between the gain in terms of energy saving and the cost of the operating devices. It should also avoid the risk to pose an unnecessary energy burden to end-customers, as they are expected to be bearing most of it.

The report, Boosting energy efficiency through Smart Grids, was commissioned by ITU in support of International Year for Sustainable Energy for All. It focuses on how ICTs can help mitigate climate change by making energy management more efficient.

The report underlines that the risk of having an ICT infrastructure with a negative energy efficiency balance often comes from the “scale” factor: this means small and low power devices (a few watts) may have a huge energy footprint when they are massively deployed. For example, at the scale of a nation, the huge number of such installations boosts very few additional watts in each home to amounts equivalent to the energy produced by several mid-size power plants (several TWh per year).

The communication infrastructure for smart grids too is prone to a boost; a rough computation taking as reference a standard telecommunication infrastructure shows it could take hundreds of GWh per year.

The main outcome of this report is quite evident, it states: the design of the communication architecture for smart grids should find the optimal trade-off among performance, redundancy, reliability and energy efficiency. To this aim, standard directives are needed to provide design guidelines and power saving requirements for next generation ICT devices and installations – a task that should be developed by ITU-T through its Joint Coordination Activity on Smart Grid and Home Networking in cooperation with the major standardization bodies in the ICT and electrical fields.