Introduction: What is the Smart Grid?

The Smart Grid is the next evolution in electricity delivery. It enhances the current power grid with digital technology to save energy, reduce costs, minimize power loss, deliver electricity more efficiently, integrate with other energy technology, monitor, manage, and automate power systems, and increase reliability, security, and transparency.

Purpose of the Smart Grid

Smart Grid Purpose
The smart grid has been developed to manage, maintain and optimize power delivery and consumption, to conserve energy, and to  integrate new power technologies, such as advances in power generation and conservation.

Current electricity delivery systems have become dated and worn. Population growth has caused overload and fragility throughout sections of the entire power grid. Compounding this, people continue to add electronic devices to residences and facilities – newer, more technologically complex electronics, which are themselves more sensitive to the very variations in electric voltage that their overuse can cause.  Ultimately,  people are using more electronics that are more sensitive to power fluctuations, on a worn power grid that has become more prone to fluctuations due to overuse.

The smart grid seeks to address these issues: to help manage and repair the grid much efficiently, to optimize power consumption, and to conserve energy. The smart grid increases the efficiency and reliability of the entire electrical delivery system minimizing power consumption, and extending the lifespan of voltage-sensitive electronics. It therefore reduces the greenhouse gas emissions associated with excessive power consumption,  and also saves money and resources by extending the life of voltage-sensitive electronics.

Smart Grid Technology

Smart Grid Technology
Smart Grid technology includes digital power management and information hardware and software, smart transformers, more efficient superconductive transmission lines for less power loss, and  may even run all the way to consumer’s equipment, monitoring its operation and helping schedule processes in order to limit the demand on the power grid and ensure the availability of good quality power.

Smart Grids and Governments:

Smart Grids and Governments

Smart grids have been promoted by governments as a way of addressing many energy issues. In North America, the United States Department of Energy formally established the Federal Smart Grid Task Force under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, and promotes the Smart Grid as a source of:

  • energy independence
    Smart Grid technology’s ability to efficiently generate power and distribute power lead the Department of Energy to describe the Smart Grid  as “a 21st century electric system that connects everyone to abundant, affordable, clean, efficient, and reliable electric power anytime, anywhere.”
  • energy conservation and cleanliness
    Smart Grids, which make the production and consumption of power much more efficient, reduce carbon emissions directly, and are recognized by governments as green technology. In addition, they help integrate environmentally friendly power technology, such as wind and solar power.
  • emergency resilience issues
    The Smart Grid’s capacity for detailed real-time monitoring and direct and comprehensive power management allowing the power grid to reroute power in order to prevent or recover quickly from issues, and also to access power reserves or alternate power sources as needed during emergency.

“Smart Grid” as defined by the American Government

The United States Department of Energy has formally released its definition of a Smart Grid, as defined by electric grid stakeholders representing utilities, technology providers, researchers, policymakers, and consumers, through regional meetings convened under the Modern Grid Strategy project of the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). These stakeholders have identified the following characteristics or performance features of a smart grid:

  • Self-healing from power disturbance events
  • Enabling active participation by consumers in demand response
  • Operating resiliently against physical and cyber attack
  • Providing power quality for 21st century needs
  • Accommodating all generation and storage options
  • Enabling new products, services, and markets


The Smart Grid & the Environment

The  Smart Grid improves the efficiency, reliability and safety of power delivery and use, delivering power with far less wastage and supporting additional services to consumers. It directly reduces power consumption at every stage of the power grid, and lessens loss, directly reducing CO2 emissions.