Smart Grid 101 - The key drivers of a smart grid

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By: SGN Staff

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In previous articles, author, trainer and smart grid pioneer Mani Vadari has explained the smart grid's key players and helped us understand the crucial systems operation function. Now he is back to explain the powerful forces that are pushing us towards a smarter future.- By Jesse Berst

 

By Dr. Subramanian "Mani" Vadari

 

The utility industry is embarking on a transition whose end isn’t fully understood. Many utilities and regulators aren’t yet comfortable relying on smart grid technologies as a substantive resource planning tool. They are questioning the assumptions used in smart-grid investment planning. And they worry that we are putting too many eggs into the smart-grid basket – something we’ll regret as we did our heavy reliance on nuclear and gas during their past boom periods.

 

The underlying problems that will NOT go away

However, the underlying issues have not gone away. Worldwide electricity demand is estimated to double by the year 2030. Meeting that need simply by building new power generators is not a reasonable alternative. Meanwhile, electric power customers expect quality, reliability, and power increases on one hand, while simultaneously demanding reductions in carbon emissions on the other.

 

The future will see diverse energy sources both at the bulk/wholesale level as well as at the distribution level. Those sources may even include hydrogen (fuel cells) and bio-fuels, not to mention wind and solar. Managing the grid will become more complex with implementation of state renewable portfolio standards (RPS), which will require that utilities use more renewable sources of energy. Those highly variable sources put great strain on a grid when installed at scale.

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