Gabriela Pena, Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden
Orna Raviv, University of Haifa, Israel
Ofira Ayalon, University of Haifa, Israel
Peter Hall, University of Sheffield, UK
Rikke Stoud Platou, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway
Shiyu Yan Norwegian school of economics - Norway
Zvi Baum, University of Haifa - Israel
Although there is universally accepted definition of what smart grids will be, they may be broadly regarded as a collection of energy generation, distribution, storage, communication and usage technologies that will allow consumers to flexibly access a wide range of energy services. They will allow greater freedom of energy usage, will allow consumers to become producers and the emergence of new generators plus many other benefits. Above all Smart Grids will allow citizens and communities to play a truly democratic role in the energy market.
The US Department of Energy definition for Smart Grid is “to bring utility electricity delivery systems into the 21st century, using computer-based remote control and automation”. Here “Grid” refers to the networks that carry electricity from plants where it is generated to consumers. This includes wires, substations, transformers, switches and much more. “Smart” refers to the “computerizing” of the electric utility grid. It includes adding two-way digital communication technology to devices associated with the grid.
The EU definition describes smart grids as an energy network that can efficiently integrate the behaviour and actions of all users connected to it - generators, consumers and those that do both – in order to ensure efficient, sustainable power system with low losses and high levels of quality and security of supply and safety.
To summarize, it is an “internet-wise power grid”.
Smart Grids will have a profound effect on the way people interface and access energy services and we believe that it is important to initiate a public discussion. History has too many examples of where new technologies were forced on populations without informed public discussion and where the resulting political fall-out has proved to be highly problematic. Unfortunate examples of this are the nuclear industry, which paid insufficient regard to the handling of radioactive waste, and the EU directive on biodiesel, which resulted in wholesale deforestation of developing countries.
As things stand, the EU Legal Framework is at best embryonic and is certainly not fit-for-purpose. Current regulation that impacts Smart Grid deployment includes directives on energy efficiency, renewables and internal energy market directives along with new electricity infrastructure regulation. Relevant EU policy drivers include the decarbonisation of energy, energy security, quality and economic efficiency of supply and also consumer empowerment.
Our firm belief is that future EU regulation should be firmly evidence based, deriving from objective emerging science and engineering experience and the requirements of EU citizens. It should not rely on the profit-seeking whims of large-scale industry nor from idealistically driven environmental pressure groups. In this blog we address the following question: The Smart Grid: What does it mean for the end-user?
To initiate the debate we review the new services available to end-users that will be made available through smart Grids and the benefits that will results for these services. There are also a number of concerns that need to be addressed, which will be listed. Finally, we suggest a list of actions that need to be urgently undertaken.
New ServicesIn an age of increasing electrification of heating and transport, the inevitable decline of large-scale electricity producers and oil companies Smart Grids will offer completely new services and opportunities, including the following:
- Consumption management and control
- Automatic/pre-set consumption control
- Remotely operation of domestic appliances
- Participation in demand-response markets (e.g. water heating, delay of white appliance usage)
- Community sharing and exchange
- The sale of PV/Wind/other privately generated energy
- The provision of energy storage in your neighbourhood through domestically located batteries and electric car batteries
- Peer-to-peer/community power exchange either locally, regionally or globally
- The donation of energy to charitable organisations
- New power generators in the market
- New medium- and small-scale generators will emerge such as farmers, cooperatives and individuals
- This will allow on the spot switching of providers
- Smart Grids as a gateway/platform for other services
- E.g. telemedicine
Although now self evident the deployment of smart Grid technologies will offer the following advantages over the current energy system based around a relatively low number of large-scale energy producers:
How does it affect me? - Pros
- More info about my consumption
- Accurate, real-time and detailed billing
- How can I better manage my consumption?
- Monitor and reduce your Carbon footprint
- How do I compare to my community average?
- Financial benefits
- Money saving (usage efficiency and participation in energy trading markets)
- Money earning (as an energy producer)
- Adaptation to climate change
- Temperature control for vulnerable people, or automatic response to weather conditions such as extreme hot or cold conditions
- Increased reliability and resilience
- Smart homes – improved and real-time remotely-control usage
How does it affect me? – ConcernsAny new technological revolution will need people to adapt to the new technologies, change behaviour and will naturally raise serious concerns, both real and perceived. We believe that these need to be debated publically and include the following:
- Consumer perception
- New or unfamiliar technologies
- Health hazards – radiation, toxic materials, etc.
- Information privacy and vulnerability issues
- Cost issues
- Who pays and how much?
- Who is the owner to implement it?
- Who will run and manage it?
- No existing or insufficient standards for domestic or mobile production and storage
RecommendationsThe climate, security and economy driven arguments for the drive to a new energy paradigm are well known and progress needs to be made on rapid implementation on a number of fronts, especially the following:
- Research and Development
- New and appropriate technology development
- Identification of gaps and overlaps in existing research horizons
- Address potential issues and concerns through the development of “people-friendly” technologies
- Demonstration projects
- Pilots in campuses, neighbourhoods, etc.
- Support and enhance research and investment
- Evidence based policy from demonstrators and pilots (local and global)
- Establish common standards and quality monitoring processes
- Establish effective and open international mechanisms to share knowledge and experience
- Initiate widespread public education ASAP and address the pros and concerns
- Share progress and status with the public
Saying the above - each plan is a base to a change, which should be expected and embedded within any future policy. As Albert Einstein said - " The measure of intelligence is the ability to change ".