• Electricity networks - Smartgrids: vision or reality?

    The electricity grids that serve European consumers today have evolved using similar technologies and infrastructure for more than a hundred years and though they have served well to date, it is clear more of the same will not be sufficient to meet current challenges and policy imperatives. New challenges arising from market liberalisation, increasing use of renewable energy sources and level of service requirement, calls for fresh thinking and in order to meet future needs, Europe's electricity networks must be flexible, accessible, reliable and economic

    Enabling Europe's electricity grids to meet these challenges, take advantage of future market opportunities and fulfil society's expectations requires vigorous research efforts and a robust technical solution. The SmartGrids European Technology Platform has been introduced to enhance the level of coherence between the European, national and regional programmes and address the challenges of future networks. In this article, Masoud Bazargan, general manager of Areva T&D's technology centre explains why it is critical that the industry strives towards a shared vision and the benefits that SmartGrids technology platform will bring to the industry. He also highlights a number of pilot studies which are currently taking place as a result of the research and development.

    The creation of SmartGrids
    During the first International Conference on the Integration of Renewable Energy Sources and Distributed Energy Resources back in 2004, industry stakeholders including regulators, network operators, network designers, equipment manufacturers and technology providers as well as the research community, recognised that a technology platform for the electricity networks of the future had to be created. It became apparent through these discussion groups that there were doubts as to whether the existing electricity grid would be able to effectively integrate existing and future concepts such as renewable energy, micro generation and consumer integration within the grid.

    As a result, the European Commission Directorate General for Research developed the initial concept and guiding principles of the technology platform with the support of existing research alongside IRED (Integration of Renewable Energies and Distributed Generation) which represents over 100 stakeholders in the electricity networks sector. Subsequently, the SmartGrids European technology platform for electricity networks of the future was formed and began its work in 2005 with an overarching aim to formulate and promote a shared vision for the development of European electricity networks looking towards 2020 and beyond. Areva T&D was one of the founding organisations within the technology platform and was invited by its members to chair its top level advisory council.

    The scope of this particular platform aims to provide a joint vision towards efficient and reliable electricity supply. The market for sourcing energy has widened and as a result the network needs to be flexible in order to adapt to future developments and fulfil the needs of both the consumers and the network operators. Customers' habits and the manner in which they use their energy will also transform over time and the network needs to be able to cope with such changes.

    The network of the future is also required to be accessible in that it needs to grant connection access to all network users, particularly for renewable power sources and high efficiency local generation with zero or low carbon emissions. Traditionally, through transmission and distribution systems, power stations dispatch power and there is little or no consumer participation and no end to end communications. Individuals, small businesses and communities who utilise micro generation technologies such as small scale wind turbines, hydroelectric plants, ground source heat pumps and PV (Photovoltaic) solar systems, should be equipped with the ability to send electricity back to the grid so that it becomes a bi-directional flow of power. This of course would provide real benefits for both the operator and the consumer who should then be incentivised.

    Assuring and improving the security and quality of the electricity supply, consistent with the demands of the digital age with resilience to hazards and uncertainties is also a key requirement to meet the needs of Europe's future and one which the technology platform will strive to ensure is implemented. Today's society depends on a secure supply of energy. There are countries without adequate reserves of fossil fuels that are facing increasing concerns as to primary energy availability. Furthermore, the ageing infrastructure of Europe's electricity transmission and distribution networks is threatening the security, reliability and quality of supply. We need to be looking at ways of re-designing grids which address these challenges.

    The technology platform will also seek to form a network that is sustainable by providing best value through efficient energy management, deregulation and application of innovative technologies. Although SmartGrids seeks to address the challenges and opportunities for the electricity grids of 2020 and beyond, it needs to be an evolutionary process due to the cost and long life of the majority of existing network components. Short term issues require resolution immediately whilst defining and researching the long term challenges. The strategy needs to fulfil the expectations of society, protect the environment as well as minimise risk and allow for timely business decisions and actions to be taken.
    It is important to note that SmartGrids is not just about the needs and opportunities of Europe. The majority of its features are appropriate and beneficial for networks around the world. However, it is triggers such as the liberalisation of the European energy market, the need for a secure cross-continent electricity network as well as Europe's recognition of identifying and implementing effective solutions that address global warming, which position Europe at the forefront of the SmartGrids revolution.

    Although the advantages to having a technology platform in place are evident, there are tough challenges ahead. The technology certainly exists, however more effort needs to be carried out in order to prove the effectiveness of the technology on existing, live networks.
    Areva T&D is at the forefront of the SmartGrids revolution and is helping to design and build Europe's electricity grids of the future. It is partnering with network operators to understand their needs and concerns, explain how they can benefit from emerging technologies and deploy pilots and proof of concepts.

    Pilot studies taking place
    Areva T&D's technology centre in Stafford is playing an integral role in performing short and long term research activities. Short term SmartGrids research which we are now starting to see being implemented is in the area of technology-based information and communications, whereby network owners are reaping the benefits, one of which is that they can still retain the same electricity network infrastructure without having to make significant changes. Thermal measurement equipment and thermal estimator algorithms are allowing the creation of products that allow network owners to manage the dispatch of power in their grid, which in turn, avoids overheating of components and associated network losses. Populating the future grid with nano-scale sensors may in the future allow us to optimise the performance of the grid in that it will permit real-time condition monitoring of all the components. However, in the short term, Areva T&D is creating network operation and management benefits through the incorporation of a more finite number of sensors in key equipment.
    Another project aligned with the SmartGrids vision and one which Areva T&D is a leading player, is Fenix, whereby it is creating the network management software which allows owners of small-scale generators to aggregate and create a virtual power plant. In doing so, owners can trade on to the network and sell their power generation capacity for maximum value and benefit to the overall network.

    Distribution network operators are also now providing Smart meters to domestic consumers. These devices allow remote reading of meters which enables automated billing. Areva T&D is creating the technology to enable these meters to act as a platform for real-time pricing of electricity to the consumer and to settle all transactions between consumer and the operator. Such a change could happen very soon and would lead to a demand-side revolution that will enable customers to participate directly in the electricity market as consumers and producers. In these customer-centric networks, consumers will decide whether to use energy intensive appliances at peak times, or instead delay their use until demand and the energy price is lower, thus smoothing and removing the peaks of demands that the industry experiences now. This could in turn lead to reduction of spinning reserve needed for system stability and security of supply and/or costly reinforcement of the network thus reducing the environmental impact.

    Shaping the future
    The importance of the SmartGrids technology platform cannot be underestimated. Throughout the development of the new grids, communication at every level is vital. Effective dialogue between industry stakeholders will ensure that relevant information influences the system design of the future. Many factors will shape future electricity networks and the actions and decisions taken today will influence longer term outcomes. In order to be sure our network will sufficiently meet future needs, the SmartGrids vision must be embraced. By doing so, industry stakeholders, consumers and the environment can reap the benefits such a vision seeks to provide.

  • Power generation - Distribution the key driver for smart grids

    Traditionally, the UK's power needs have been met by large, centralised generation  units, with the electricity they produce transported to consumers by very reliable transmission grids feeding into tapered distribution networks. But times are changing. There are concerns today's demands for increased power supplies with higher reliability from cleaner, and preferably renewable, energy sources can be met with today's grid infrastructure. There is a growing consensus of opinion we need an intelligent system that can receive power of all qualities from all sources - both centralised and distributed - and deliver reliable supplies, on demand, to consumers of all kinds. In short, we need a smart grid says Peter Jones, head of technology at ABB (UK)

    There is though a great deal of variation within the power industry, and outside it, as to what exactly should be included under the idea of a smart grid. Ask a room full of utility professionals to define the term and you're likely to get a wide range of answers. But most probably the discussion will focus on FACTS (Flexible AC Transmission Systems), WAMS (Wide Area Monitoring Systems) and HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current) technologies. These are of course very important transmission technologies that are already starting to play a significant global role in the development of smart transmission grids.

    Ask a room full of consumers, and the talk will probably be about smart meters. Personally though, I am coming to the conclusion the ‘killer' element of the smart grid will be in between these two extremes - at the distribution network level. Distribution networks may well be the key to help manage the impact of the variable nature of generation from  large volumes of wind energy coupled with the dynamic requirements of customer electricity demands.
    The increased reliance on an inherently variable source of generation will pose particular challenges in balancing the grid to maintain the high level of reliability and availability expected by consumers. This will be especially true on those days when the weather is cold, and energy demand is high with the additional risk of widespread low wind speeds sometimes seen in an average UK winter.

    Since the UK currently has very little energy storage resource, with the notable exception of pumped hydroelectric schemes such as Dinorwig (providing 1800 MW), there are two choices. Either we need to invest in expensive fossil-fuelled plants to act as backup, or we create a smart grid that can take active, dynamic control of demand, storage and distributed generation at the distribution network level.

    From passive to active distribution network
    To meet this challenge, distribution networks will need to make a radical change from their traditionally passive format (ie, planned for particular peak loads and for use as fit-and-forget networks) to become more active or dynamically adapting networks in order to manage the increasing demands placed on them. This will necessarily be a two-way system where power generated by a multitude of small, distributed sources (CHP and domestic micro generation etc) flows into a grid based on a network rather than a hierarchical structure. Just as the Internet has changed media from a one-to-many paradigm to a many-to-many arrangement, so too will the smart grid enable a similar shift in the flow of electricity. It could also include the connection of smart white grids in the home, such as washing machines, refrigerators and freezers, with the possibility that they can be managed by the local DNO (Distribution Network Operator) to provide active and reactive load control in the local network, taking smart metering to a new level of sophistication.

    The smart grid will change the way we look at power distribution. Technologies are already available in the form of switchgear, transformers, reactive power compensation solutions and Scada distribution management systems that enhance the operation of medium- and low-voltage power networks. But, as power generation becomes more distributed, and more power comes from renewable resources, the distribution grid will need to accommodate more fluctuations in power quality, as well as two-way power flow, while also becoming more responsive to changes in consumer demand.  The management of such a complex system will depend on real-time, secure communications and highly adaptive control systems. These will provide utilities and their customers with real-time information from across the network on the performance of grid installations, power flow and consumer demand. They will allow intelligent automated devices to react to imbalances in the system and also improve asset management by enabling improved predictive maintenance programs and faster emergency response times. Improved customer restoration times during system disturbances and network reconfiguration will also be a critical aspect of future smart grids. The incorporation of enterprise-wide information systems and customer response management tools will improve utility operations, enabling better customer relations and the provision of tailored services. The introduction of more intelligent monitoring systems and the extension of substation- and feeder automation in distribution networks will optimise operations, bringing improvements in reliability, availability, security and energy efficiency.

    The way forward
    Building the next generation of active power delivery networks requires a mixture of: new technology; existing technology deployed in new ways; existing asset infrastructure utilised in an optimum way; and changes in operating practices by electric utilities. Building on existing ideas, progress in such a complex, multi-stakeholder research and development effort requires a collaborative approach such as in the team-based AuRA-NMS project. Autonomous Regional Active Network Management Systems (AuRA-NMS) is a collaborative research and development project, sponsored by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), that seeks to demonstrate new network operation concepts in the UK. In addition to ABB, the consortium includes two major distribution network operators (DNOs) and several UK universities.

    The goal of AuRA-NMS is to demonstrate the benefits of active network management using a distributed architecture integrated into existing control and asset infrastructure. It includes the use of innovative battery storage to understand the merits of trading opportunities, the support of constrained capacity related to overhead lines and cables, and stability control of the network due to various types of distributed generation. The project also aims to provide automated solutions for complicated constraint management.

    The network management system controller used in the project is ABB's COM 600 series designed to complement the substation automation and network management systems already in service by some UK DNOs. The COM 600 supports the IEC 61850 standard and offers interoperability and expandability as well as providing a certain level of legacy protocol support for the DNOs' existing feeder automation devices.

    SVC Light with dynamic energy storage
    In coordination with the AuRA-NMS project, ABB is working with EDF Energy Networks on a collaborative research, development and demonstration project to install an SVC Light STATCOM (Static Compensator) with dynamic energy storage in a grid with a high penetration of wind power. The project is being financially supported through industry regulator Ofgem's Innovation Funding Incentive scheme.

    The installation will yield dynamic voltage control in an 11 kV distribution system and at the same time enable dynamic storage of surplus energy from wind farms, which can be utilized to level out peaks in grid loading. Using this strategy, the power harnessed from the wind can be put to more efficient use than would otherwise be possible. The SVC Light with dynamic energy storage incorporates a high-tech lithium-ion (Li-ion) 5.2 kV battery system supplied by Saft that can deliver 200 kW for an hour and 600 kW for over 15 minutes.

    The smart grid will not be a revolution. It will be a transformation of the distribution networks that have served us for many years into more intelligent, more dynamic and effective, environmentally sensitive networks to provide for our future needs. However, if our environmental targets are to be met this transformation must start now.

  • Blown Fuse - Smart grids aren’t so clever

    Our resident grumpy old man turns his attention to smart grids this month, just in time for Christmas. We don't think he'll be getting any presents from electricity suppliers

    There is a widely held proposition within the electrical sector that I have largely left alone, since my blood pressure is already sufficiently elevated without further exacerbation. That topic is the notion of ‘smart grid' technology.

    For anyone who has yet to pick up on this clever nonsense, the idea is devices are plugged into homes and then appliances are plugged into the devices. This then gives the electricity supplier the opportunity to charge more for power used at peak times and also to turn off any appliances to avoid brown outs or black outs on the grid.

    Don't get me wrong, I have been blathering on about reducing energy consumption for nearing three decades now. Those arguments that once had me labelled a pioneer, now have me tagged as an old moaner. In that time I have seen energy saving lamps installed alongside ever increasingly powerful air conditioning equipment, powerful outdoor lighting and electric doors. I have also witnessed a far greater appreciation of carbon reduction, but little actual reduction!

    I suppose I am suggesting until governments make their carrots and sticks more effective, nothing much will happen. I just hope the carrots get bigger but that the sticks don't become too unwieldy. For this reason, I see no reason why we shouldn't have some limitations imposed on our electricity usage. In France and Italy consumers subscribe to a limit on their maximum supply - once this limit is reached, the main incomer pops and will not reset until an appliance is turned off. The higher the maximum supply demanded, the higher the unit price of the electricity purchased.

    As plans stand, smart grids - like so many ill thought out ideas - would probably do little to affect electricity consumption. The better off would simply groan each time their bills arrived and then turn up the air conditioning to cool their furore; the poor would likely get cut off or have their consumption limited to what they can afford.

    What I really object to however, is not that my electricity usage might be monitored and controlled by the electricity supplier, but rather that they, not me, would be able to determine which of my appliances is switched off, and when. Even across the Channel that's a power Electricitié de France doesn't exercise!

    It may be no coincidence in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts where the first practical smart grid system was tried, the regulators insisted the system disallowed in order to protect low income customers.

    Of course, idealists voice that smart grids enable control over peak demand and therefore a reduction in dirty old coal fired power stations. I hate these nebulous arguments because one can dream them up to support any premise you like. I know, let's restrict the use of telephones because that way we could remove lots of poles and masts from our environment. It might make my old mum think twice about calling me, but it wouldn't stop yabbering salesmen interrupting my dinner to ask if I pay too much on my mobile phone bills!
    I have no issue with limiting total power to the consumer. I have no real problem with charging for electricity at different rates according to total consumption - heavy users of electricity after all contribute more costly environmental damage. I firmly support the design of energy efficient appliances. I am firmly in favour of technology that enables us to better understand and control our energy usage - provided it is us that decide what to control.
    I am neither technophobe nor philistine when it comes to energy technology. It's just I have a deep distrust of anything that enables further draconian interference with how I choose to live my law abiding life.

  • Free seminars on implications of smart meters and smart grids

    The Digital Communications and Modern Build Environment Knowledge Transfer Networks are sponsoring a series of free seminars on the implications of smart meters and smart grids.

    The next seminar will take place on 21 September at Teacher Hall in Glasgow. Details of the event and an agenda are available at: http://tinyurl.com/35edem7. Free registration is available at http://tinyurl.com/3y4uxrd.

    Electrical energy consumption accounts for about 18% of all the UK's fuel use, contributing substantially to our total carbon emissions. Also, manual meter inspection is a significant operating cost for the power utilities, and the vans used for transport by meter inspectors to visit the UK's 26m domestic dwellings make an additional and significant contribution to total carbon emissions.

    Smart meters offer the potential of creating a communications network, allowing for remote meter reading, and - providing suitable smart meters are installed - can also be used to control energy consuming equipment in the home. For example, smart meters can be used to switch off non-essential appliances, or at times when there is a need to reduce peak demand. This will reduce carbon emissions and help balance peak load demand on the electricity generation network, vital in effectively managing the UK's energy gap in 2015-17.

    The creation of the UK's national smart meter and smart grid networks is a major undertaking, requiring substantial investment to install the networks and replace existing power meters - present estimates put investment in the range £7-10bn. As demonstrated by the internet, there are also significant security implications arising from the introduction of a distributed communications network - procedures will be needed to deter and deflect malicious attacks on the network.

    Such a massive investment programme creates a myriad of opportunities for organisations in the energy, communications, construction, consumer electronics, transport and IT sectors, among others. The seminar aims to demonstrate what the potential could be for your organisation.

  • Smart grids rely on relays

    The quest for intelligent, so called smart grid technology is seen by many as the key to future exploitation of renewable energy sources and the inclusion on the grid of home grown generation from micro CHP systems. But, as Keith Hamilton, group managing director of PBSI Group explains, the prerequisite for the establishment of smart grids relies on a significant investment in equipment as humble as protection relays

  • The smart grid's role in increasing energy efficiency

    The past decade has seen governments across the globe introducing targets aimed at increasing energy efficiency and lowering carbon emissions in the face of growing environmental concern. The European Union (EU), for example, introduced its ‘20-20-20’ targets in 2008, which call for a 20% reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions based on 1990 levels; 20% of energy sources to come from renewable energy; and a 20% reduction in primary energy usage; all by 2020. Bastian Fischer, vice president of industry strategy at Oracle Utilities explains

  • Enabling the smart grids of the future

    The energy transmission and distribution industry is evolving. For switchgear customers, distribution automation and environmental responsibility are now high on the agenda, alongside the traditional requirements of performance, reliability, safety and cost. However, as the lifetime of switchgear is often 20 years or more, technology R&D must be both innovative and pragmatic – meeting demands for automation and load-related growth, while allowing for the refurbishment of, and integration with, existing assets. Sundeep Singh, product marketing manager at Lucy Switchgear, explains

  • Telecoms for Smart Grids

    Telecoms for Smart Grids

    23rd and 24th September 2013,

    Marriott Hotel Regents Park, London


    Smart Grid Communication technologies capable of enhancing energy efficiency, utility operations, renewable resource integration, and meet the needs of increasing power demands will lead the global evolution of the Smart Grid.

  • Smart grids: The second wave of utilities infrastructure

    In recent years, our energy needs have achieved a level of critical mass that has brought the issue of power consumption to the forefront of public debate. Recognising the need to address accelerating population growth, the industrialisation of emerging economies, and the alarming scarcity of fossil fuels, both governments and utilities have initiated a second wave of infrastructure investment with the adoption of smart grids. Brad Williams, vice president for industry strategy at Oracle Utilities, explains.

  • The power of innovation

    For many years, grid operators relied only on tried and tested technologies – but a drive towards innovation in recent years is reaping rewards. Peter Jones explains how new technologies and new applications for existing technologies can help operators make the most of their assets and do more with less 

  • Solar farms connect to a high-power grid

    Energy specialist Alfen has been selected by Solarcentury to provide the high-voltage power grid connections for a 17.5 megawatt-peak (MWp) solar farm at the location of recycling company Twence in Enschede, the Netherlands as well as for a solar farm of approximately 45 MWp at the location of zinc smelting company Nyrstar in Budel, the Netherlands.

  • Reviewing big data implementation

    Reviewing big data implementation

    Grid Analytics Europe 2018 this year draws together 120+ utility big data leaders and smart grid domain experts for a review of practical big data implementations, and a discussion of the next steps in developing the data management, analytics and visualisation function, to maximise value and drive use-case expansion across the smart utility asset management, operations & maintenance, customer journey and finance department.

  • Renewable revolution: Rethinking the role of a UPS

    Riello UPS general manager Leo Craig explains why our increased reliance on renewable energy offers mission-critical sites the perfect opportunity to rethink the role of their uninterruptible power supplies. It’s time to turn a reactive, underutilised asset into a proactive, carbon-cutting money-maker.

  • Intelligent grid connections

    Stephen Jones, ABB Power Grid’s head of business development for the Distributed Energy Sector, explains what makes a grid connection intelligent – and how this can help data centre operators.

  • Busbar trunking system market to exceed $3 bn by 2025

    The busbar trunking system market size is set to surpass 3 billion USD by 2025, according to Global Market Insights.

  • Siemens introduces virtual power plant service platform

    Siemens Finland has created a new business to expand its virtual power plant activity: Vibeco (Virtual Buildings Ecosystem).

  • A strong backbone

    Livia Rosu, marketing chair at HomeGrid Forum, explains how G.hn technology could hold the key to unlocking the future of the power grid.

  • Digitising power

    Dave Roberts, director at EA Technology, explains how the OpenLV project is meeting the challenge of keeping the lights on whilst decarbonising the future.

  • Hashtag no filter

    Dave Armitage of Schaffner Group discusses the critical role EMI (electromagnetic interference) filtering has to play in electrical energy facilities.

  • Are microgrids the future of UK energy?

    Britain experienced its biggest blackout in more than a decade this summer due to two power plant outages, leaving almost a million homes across the country in the dark. Because of this, the energy watchdog and the government have raised concerns about the grid’s ability to cope with changing energy needs and demands. Here, Alan Binning, regional sales manager at energy software developer, COPA-DATA, explains how microgrids could help.