What is a Smart Grid? | Grid Scientific
What is a Smart Grid?

What is a Smart Grid?

In its Smart Grid Roadmap (2010) the Electricity Networks Strategy Group (ENSG) provides a definition of a Smart Grid:

“A Smart Grid as part of an electricity power system can intelligently integrate the actions of all users connected to it – generators, consumers and those that do both – in order to efficiently deliver sustainable, economic and secure electricity supplies.

A Smart Grid employs communications, innovative products and services together with intelligent monitoring and control technologies to:

  • Facilitate connection and operation of generators of all sizes and technologies
  • Enable the demand side to play a part in optimising the operation of the system
  • Extend system balancing into distribution and the home
  • Provide consumers with greater information and choice of supply
  • Significantly reduce the environmental impact of the total electricity supply system
  • Deliver required levels of reliability, flexibility, quality and security of supply.”

This definition describes capabilities that seek to support timely, cost effective response to issues facing the power sector today:

  • Network infrastructure that is under stress and reaching the end of its design life
  • Increasing demand and insufficient generation and transport capacity to serve it
  • Security and quality of supplies
  • Legal obligations to satisfy decarbonisation objectives
  • Severe financial constraints and concerns for Fuel Poverty.

Implementation of smart grids will be based upon a combination of conventional and innovative (“smart”) technologies and solutions. These include capabilities such as:

  • Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) – incorporating smart meters, communications networks, home displays, and analytics applications
  • Distributed generation resources: wind, solar, biomass
  • Storage at domestic and community level
  • Electric Vehicles (EV) and smart charging
  • Heat Pumps (HP) and aggregated DSR
  • Sensors for improved network observability, particularly at distribution level
  • Real-time thermal monitoring of network asset capacities
  • Distribution automation and self-healing networks.

There is a substantial body of information available from a large number of sources regarding smart grids; some documents and links that might be of interest can be found in Resources.


UK Government Smart Grid Approach

The UK government’s approach to smart grids has been summarised by DECC as:

“Building a smarter grid is an incremental process of applying information and communications technologies to the electricity system, enabling more dynamic real time flows of information on the network and more interaction between suppliers and consumers. Smart grids will make a key contribution to UK energy and climate goals. The UK is taking action now and investing in smart grid development and planning for the future.”

Many actions and investments are in progress or planned; two of the most significant are:

  • The roll-out of 30,000,000 smart electricity and gas meters to all UK homes and small businesse4s by 2020; smart meters can pave the way for a transformation in the way energy is supplied and used and are a key enabler of the smart grid
  • Ofgem is providing £500 million over the five year period to 2015 through the Low Carbon Networks Fund to support smart grid trials sponsored by the Distribution Network Operator (DNO) Companies.

Smart grid solutions have not been mandated by the government; the government does not make technical implementation decisions of that kind. However there is growing evidence of both government and industry commitment to their implementation and deployment. Evidence of this commitment can be found across the sector, for example:

  • DECC and Ofgem have formed and are leading the Smart Grid Forum (SGF) as a central body for progressing planning and thinking
  • The recent submissions by the DNOs as part of the RIIO process show their commitment to move toward use of smart grid solutions
  • Modelling undertaken as part of Smart Grid Forum  Work Stream 3 shows there is an economic case for applying smart solutions; they are not being driven by purely technical objectives
  • Contracts have been awarded for the Data Communications Company (DCC), Communications Service Providers (CSP) and Data Service Provider (DSP) which provide key infrastructure for the smart metering programme.

Some £110 billion infrastructure investment in the electrical power sector over the next decade is projected by the government.