Introduction of Smart Grids
The conventional electric grid transmits electricity and involves a synchronized network of the providers as well as consumers who are connected to utility lines that transmit and distribute power under the control of one or several centers. A smart grid, on the other hand, is an improvement of the old generation electric grid system which is designed from the bottom to the top to handle digital, computerized as well as the technology that depends on it. Moreover, the smart grid enables a two-channel communication between the utility and those who consume it in addition to a sensing mechanism. Smart Grid, therefore, provides an excellent option to lift energy generating industry into a new era of availability, efficiency in service provision and power efficiency.
The smart grid is made up of three major components which include
- the power generation system
- transmission system
- distribution systems
The generation component includes the power generators and the substations for distribution to the final users.
Smart grid system does not only focus on the new technology of electric power management but strikes a balance between input and output costs. The smarter grid allows the consumer to assess their power consumption through smart meters and promotes timely decisions to use less power in durations when electricity charges are high leading to reduced expenditure.
The earliest wide-scale application of the smart grid was first observed in Italy through the Telegestore project from the year 2000. Since the 1990s when the system came into existence only a few countries have implemented it on a wider scale like China and Texas in the USA. However, most communication companies are currently shifting from the old system to the smart grid.
The new technology comes with numerous benefits both to the providers and the consumers of power. Smart grid technology allows an efficient transmission of electric power with a rapid restoration system in cases of disturbances along the lines. Moreover, it promotes a notable reduction in the cost of managing the utilities which is a great benefit to the producers and the consumers as it trickles down in the form of low charges to power consumption. The new system also lowers the peak demand leading to lower rates of electricity. Additionally, the smart grid system improves security in transmission as well as distribution, allows the integration of wide-scale renewable systems of energy and better customer-owner systems of generating power.
Despite the availability of multiple benefits to the consumer as well as to the producers, there are complains of consumer exploitation through the variability of the rates leading to obscurity and reduced supplier accountability. Moreover, there is an invasion of privacy through availing of the consumer data to law enforcers. Another problem is the increased government control in power using activities which is enabled by the smart grid system.
The installation of the smart system components is quite expensive and requires a utility to make a business analysis in advance. The use of such elements also requires the suppliers to have them within the system. The smart grid system is currently facing opposition from companies which offer similar products like the DSL. Furthermore, since each utility has a unique legislative, business and regulations that direct the installation of its smart grid leading to different rates of adoption of the new technology.
The smart grid is geared towards taking advantage of the plug-in electric-based vehicles, smart metering, the use of solar energy and the lighting management system. It is projected to be the dominant system of electricity management in the future. The system will promote the quality supply of power, increase reliability and mitigate the crisis from rising demand.