What is Smart Grid?

Smart Grid is the key word mentioned frequently in recent years. Although up till now we still do not have a widely acknowledged definition of what is Smart Grid, people generally agree that the smart grid is basically the applications of scientific and technological advances in the fields of information technology (IT), telecommunications, automation,… into current power grids so as to make production, transmission, distribution and consumption of electricity more efficient, reliable, economical and sustainable. Though originally used in the power sector (Smart Electricity Grid), Smart Grid has recently been adopted by the gas industry (Smart Gas Grid) and water industry (Smart Water Grid) due to the similarity of these sectors, especially in terms of distribution and consumption.

Benefits of Smart Grid

Smart Grid offers both the power companies and consumers overwhelming advantages.

As for consumers, the smart grid helps them to monitor the power consumption output of devices at different moments nearly in real time, thereby actively select the devices and adjust the electricity usage as to lower the cost. Customers can also use new services with a wide choice of prices (eg: price on and off peak hours), which the traditional grid can not provide.

Regarding power companies, the smart grid will enhance their supply reliability as well as their efficiency of energy usage, and reduce costs through improving operation efficiency and information management… Costs of labour and operation can also be minimized owing to electronic meters/smart meters applications and technologies that allow collecting data, monitoring and controlling devices on the remote grid through telecommunication networks (RF, mobiles,…)

For society, the stability, continuity and efficiency of power supply for agencies, enterprises and residents will act as not only a foundation but also a driving force for socio-economic development and social welfare. The smart grid is capable of integrating to renewable energies, supporting electric vehicles (Plug-In Electric Vehicle (PEV)), which can also contribute to reduce emissions of environmental pollutants.

Technological solutions

Generally, the development of Smart Grid varies for each region and country. Whereas developed countries are interested in improving the efficiency of the distribution network, depleting emissions that cause greenhouse effect, integrating power sources from renewable energies and enhancing customer services, the developing countries focus primarily on the optimal management of electricity output in peak time, reduction of power loss and bad debts. Depending on their goals, each nation will adopt different technological approaches and solutions. On the other hand, Smart Grid itself has still continously been studied and developed, many of its technologies have yet to come into practice. As a result, at present, it is almost impossible to have a detailed assessment of the existing Smart Grid solutions. However, in general, Smart Grid contains sets of technological solutions that cover the entire grid, from production, transmission to distribution and consumption, as described in Figure 1 (according to Technology Roadmaps – International Energy Agency).

(Source: National Energy Technology Laboratory and National Institute of Standards and Technology 2010)
  • Wide-area monitoring and control

The collection of hardwares (eg: PMU – Phasor Measurement Unit) and softwares (Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), wide-area monitoring systems (WAMS), wide-area adaptive protection, control and automation (WAAPCA), wide-area situational awareness (WASA)) manage and control the performance of grid components in real time on a large scale. Also, it considerably helps management units to have accurate information for making timely decisions, avoiding undesirable incidents, improving capacity and reliability of the grid.

  • Information and communications technology integration

The collection of hardwares (server devices, switches, mobile and television communications, communications through power lines,etc.) and software solutions (ERP, Billing & Customer Information System) supports the exchage of information and improves the operations of organizations and businesses.

  • Renewable and distributed generation integration

The collection of energy storing technologies, power conditioning equipments and software solutions like Energy Management System (EMS), distribution management system (DMS), SCADA, geographic Information system (GIS) facilitates the balance between supply and consumption through automatically controlling usage and power supplies, including distributed sources and renewable energies.

  • Transmission enhancement applications

The collection of hardware devices (Flexible AC transmission systems (FACTS), High voltage DC (HVDC), super semiconductors) and software solutions (analysis of network stability, self-recovery systems,…) aims at reinforcing and optimizing the efficiency of power transmission.

  • Distribution grid management

The collection of hardware devices (line sensors, substation sensors, automatic substations,…) and software solutions (Geographic information system (GIS), distribution management system (DMS), outage management system (OMS), workforce management system (WMS)) helps to not only improve power quality, but also increase equipment efficiency, minimize power outages as well as reduce troubleshooting time.

  • Advanced metering infrastructure

This consists of smart meters, hardwares and telecommunication infrastructures transmitting two-way data between the meter and power supply, and software systems (HES – Head End System, MDMS,…) which provide both electricity companies and customers with various outstanding features like: supply/cut power at a long distance, collect and analyse data of power usage in real time, support complex electricity quotations over time, analyse consumption, prevent fraud, increase the efficiency of billing and debt management,…

  • Electric vehicle charging infrastructure

Technological infrastructures support the act of recharging electric vehicles.

  • Customer-side systems

Hardware and software solutions including energy management systems, storing and displaying devices, thermostatic devices, smart devices, smartphone applications, online interactive channels,… intend to support customers to manage power consumption in an effective and economical way.

Chu Quang Hien – FPT IS

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