Palo Alto, CA, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — March 16, 2009 – A smart grid that will enable contributions to CO2 reductions from renewables, energy efficiency, distributed energy resources and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles offers the strategic pathway to accelerate progress in distribution and transmission, according to a new white paper from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) presenting a vision for a holistic power supply and delivery chain.

The paper says the electric power sector faces three important challenges that cannot be addressed without substantial investments in research and development. These are global climate change, ageing, outdated power delivery infrastructure, and an infrastructure that is not prepared to adapt to market and technology innovations.

Moreover, the dramatic changes that are likely to occur in the electric sector in the next 10 years are inextricably linked to the activities of power system operators and planners. As such enhancements will be necessary to the power delivery infrastructure as well as the tools and methods that will be needed to improve economic efficiency, assure adequate reliability, increase system robustness, and optimize the financial benefits.

The pathways that constitute the creation of a smart grid are the distribution enabled technology pathway and the grid enabled technology pathway.

The distribution enabled technology pathway offers a plan for widely deploying energy efficient end-use devices, distributed energy resources and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and integrating them into an “intelligent” distribution network. The resulting digital platform will enable millions of IP-addressed smart devices, appliances, machines, databases, and control systems to communicate, synchronize operations, and respond to price signals. The execution of this pathway begins with establishing interoperability standards and implementing an advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) that will support real time data acquisition and dynamic energy management. From there, AMI will be integrated with smart distributed resources, and distributed resources and end-use devices will be routinely manufactured to include interactive intelligence and accepted communication standards. Integration will step up systematically from the distribution level to the energy management system level and finally to grid operations and planning.
 
The grid enabled technology pathway calls for a transmission grid infrastructure that can operate reliably with as much as 20 to 30 percent intermittent renewables in specific areas. To accommodate such growth in energy resources that are inherently less controllable than conventional generation, the transmission system must be enhanced to become more resilient and flexible. Storage will alleviate some but not all of the problems associated with intermittent generation. New transmission lines to connect remote renewables sites to the grid will change the topology and power flows in the region. Thus there will be growing need for power electronics that will allow new control strategies for renewables integration.

Improved control of intermittent generation will also require the development of modeling tools to forecast the output minutes to 24 hours ahead. New analytical tools will optimize regulation, reserves and load following requirements in regions with high penetration of intermittent resources.

Grid operations and planning essentially serves as a capstone to these technology pathways, ensuring that the advances in technology and control that are achieved at the local level can be integrated across regions to enable improved wide area coordination and control, the paper says. Research in grid operations and planning is needed to develop better tools and models that will enable operators and planners to effectively incorporate and manage distributed, intermittent and renewable resources, as well as to improve the reliability and control of the electric power system both now and in the future.