Many are aware that existing energy supplies are economically, environmentally and socially unsustainable. This is largely due to the prevalent supply security concerns for traditional fossil fuels, compounded by growing concerns on greenhouse gas emissions – both of which would double in magnitude by the year 2050. A low-carbon and sustainable energy revolution must take place, and the itntelligent grid with its accompanying technologies will play a major role for this to happen.
The new grid is more than just an upgrade of the existing infrastructure for the transmission and distribution of energy to end users. The smart grid is an array of enabling technologies involving an integration of various technological systems: from communication, new metering technologies, improved storage devices, and enabling of low-carbon technologies. Some of these are already in existence now and are being equipped for adaptation to both existing and totally new electricity systems and infrastructures.
Understanding SMART Grid Technologies
To understand these technologies and what they can do, it should be approached from two different perspectives: one from a purely technological standpoint, while the other focuses on functionalities. Technologically speaking, a smart grid is putting or integrating a digital communication overlay over an existing energy network: from switching, fault sensing, and intelligent end-user devices.
From a functionality point of view, a smart grid involves several areas which include: the interconnection and transactive coordination of distributed resources including the integration of renewable energy generation sources; the automation of the distribution system; dynamic pricing and the corresponding demand response; and the ability for end users to become either a consumer or producer – or even both. These are some of the smart grid technologies and capabilities that will create value to the system, resulting to a more optimized, decentralized, but highly coordinated electricity supply and demand system that transcend what people traditionally know of the utility-consumer setup.
Latest Trends in SMART Grid Technology Developments
Most of the existing electrical grid in the United States, such as that in California, has been in existence for more than a hundred years. With new challenges in energy supply and demand, compounded by threats of global warming and other environmental issues, it is imperative that these grids be modernized – resulting in a more efficient, more reliable, safer, interoperable and more affordable electrical system.
Large scale upgrades of old grids are in the works right now and are slowly shifting towards new trends in smart grid technology developments that are available. The global smart grid market is at $ 22.8 billion last year in 2011, but is expected to jump up to $ 80.6 billion by the year 2016 as new technologies are being introduced that can deliver and meet the requirements smart grid reliability, stability and lower electrical rates.
Some of these new technologies include the activation of the Home Area Network (HAN) capabilities in new grid upgrades. This will provide consumers with real-time usage and monitoring information through their smart meters and the latest data applications such as the Green Button and the smart thermostat. Other smart grid technologies to watch out for include cloud computing, Outage Management Systems (OMS), Vehicle to Grid (V2G), microgrids and other integrated technologies.
SMART Grid Outlook
With a great momentum in smart grid deployment, the market is expected to continue hitting double digit growths in the coming years. A survey from Zpryme indicates that 8 out of 10 industry executives are confident that investments in smart grids will continue to go through 2012 and the succeeding years. Many believe that the smart grid is the only rational and viable long-term action that can integrate and manage all government regulation, integration of renewable energy, carbon emissions control, and other complex requirements of the volatile energy market.