A “smart” grid is the digital technology that allows for two-way communication between a utility and its customers, as well as the sensing (power meters, voltage sensors, fault detectors, etc.) along the transmission lines. In other words, smart grid means “computerizing” the electric grid.
Understanding the Electrical Grid
The electrical grid is a network of transmission lines, substations, transformers and more that deliver electricity from the power plant to homes and businesses. It’s what one plugs into when flipping on the switch or turning on a computer. The electrical grid has three main components: generation, transmission and distribution. Electricity is generated by utilities (e.g. fossil fuel power plants, wind turbines), which then produce energy for immediate use by consumers. High voltage transmission lines then transport bulk amounts of electricity to substations near population centers. Finally, high voltage electricity is stepped down to a lower distribution voltage through a substation transformer and transmitted through power lines to consumers. The electric grid functions as a one way broadcast of electricity from power plant to end user without feedback or situational awareness.
A “smart” grid is the digital technology that allows for two-way communication between a utility and its customers, as well as the sensing (power meters, voltage sensors, fault detectors, etc.) along the transmission lines. In other words, smart grid means “computerizing” the electric grid. A key feature is automation technology that lets the utility adjust and control each individual device or millions of devices from a central location. Smart grid also refers to the process of integrating technology into the existing electrical grid to improve reliability, power quality and efficiency. There are multiple benefits to making the electrical grid more interactive.
(Source: smartgrid.gov; U.S. Department of Energy; Michigan Public Service Commission)
Understanding the Benefits
A smart grid has the ability to improve safety and efficiency, make better use of existing assets, enhance reliability and power quality, reduce dependence on imported energy, and minimize costly environmental impacts. Electricity suppliers, delivery companies, residential consumers, and broader society will realize benefits from improvements in the following key value areas:
- Improved reliability: A smart grid delivers electricity to consumers when they desire or need it and at a quality that supports consumers’ requirements. The implementation of smart grid technology would reduce the frequency and duration of power outages, the number of disturbances that occur due to poor power quality, and would make widespread blackouts a thing of the past.
- Improved economics means lower delivery and energy bills paid by consumers. The creation of opportunities for new products and services, the stimulation of economic development and the creation of new jobs are all elements of improved grid economics.
- Improved efficiency will result from a reduction in the cost of producing, delivering and consuming electricity. Reducing operation and maintenance costs, and capital investment costs, as well as the amount of energy used by consumers, will keep downward pressure on future prices and will help the U.S. more efficiently utilize its natural resources.
- Environmental improvements will result from a reduction in emissions and discharges due to the expected deployment of smart grid-enabled electric vehicles. This will reduce levels of CO2 and tail pipe emissions.
- Improved security and safety will result from an increase in the robustness and resiliency of the grid from a physical or cyber attack, thereby reducing the probability and consequences of man-made attacks and natural disasters. Also, reductions in oil imports made possible by the smart grid enhance national security by increasing U.S. energy independence.
(Source: Department of Energy)
Resources on Smart Grid:
UCLA-SmartGrid-SMERC-Exec-Presentation_09 2014 – Source: Rajit Gadh, Ph.D., Professor of Engineering, SMERC Director.
SGIG-EvaluatingEVcharging-Dec2014 – Evaluating Electric Vehicle Charging Impacts and Customer Charging Behaviors – Experiences from Six Smart Grid Investment Grant Projects – Source: U.S. Department of Energy.
WINSmartEV_Project_SMERC_brochure – WINSmartEV Project, Source: UCLA SMERC 2014