Electrical grids across the world are becoming smarter and greener. The Singapore Power Group’s annual 2021 Smart Grid Index, which compares a total of 86 utilities across 37 countries, suggests that electrical grids in North America, Europe, and the Asia Pacific are increasingly integrating smart grid technology into their utilities, Smart Energy International reported.
In assessing these utilities, the report looked at seven different dimensions, including green energy, monitoring and control, data analytics, distributed energy resource (DER) integration, security, customer empowerment and satisfaction, and supply reliability. Key findings from the report include:
- North American utilities are leading the way in smart grids, but utilities in Europe and Asia Pacific are not far behind.
- North American utilities improved 10% in the dimension of green energy, while overall utilities across the world improved by 7%.
- Utilities in North America had the highest levels of maturity across all dimensions except for supply reliability, where it is only around half that of Europe and the Asia Pacific.
- Asia Pacific utilities saw the largest improvement in supply reliability, whereas European utilities saw the biggest improvement in security.
- Internationally, 65% of utilities have solar and wind energy delivering over 10% system demand, an increase of 9% from the previous year. Now at 83%, European utilities continue to dominate solar and wind as they have for the last four years.
- Among the 86 utilities assessed, France’s Enedis was ranked number one, up from number 16 the previous year, making a number of significant achievements, especially in data analytics, DER integration, and security.
What’s the Difference Between a Smart Grid and a Microgrid?
While smart grids and microgrids are often used together, they are different. As the name suggests, a smart grid is an electrical grid that is smart. Unlike traditional electrical grids, smart grids combine digital communications technology with two-way electricity flow in order to monitor for and react to problems and changes in usage as they happen. Smart grids are integrated into larger utilities, such as large transmission and distribution lines. Smart grid technology includes smart meters at distribution utilities, modern sensor technology that can monitor grid stability, and advanced batteries that can be used for energy storage.
A major benefit of smart grid is that it gives greater insight to consumers into their energy use, allowing them to monitor and control their usage, and save money. Furthermore, smart grids integrate distributed energy resources, small-scale electricity supply or demand resources typically near load centers, which help distribute energy more efficiently. DERs are often made up of green energy technology like wind and solar, making them more environmentally friendly.
Microgrids are a type of distributed energy resources. These small-scale grids operate independently in local areas off the larger utility grid network, though they can also be integrated into larger networks to supplement power. Since they are small and supply energy to local communities, microgrids can be powered by green energy technology like wind and solar. Microgrids come in handy during power outages, as they can be “islanded,” or disconnected from the larger network if it goes down. As such, they are especially useful in communities prone to natural disasters.
With smart grids and microgrids becoming more common, utility industry professionals will need a solid understanding of how to work with and implement this complex technology. Developing such skills is a great way to stay relevant in this evolving industry.
Exploring Distributed Energy Resource Technology
Are you ready to adopt the smart grid? Explore standards concerning DERs by enrolling in Introduction to IEEE Std 1547-2018: Connecting Distributed Energy Resources. This six-course program focuses on IEEE Standard 1547-2018, a standard that provides technical specifications for interconnection and interoperability between utility electric power systems (EPSs) and distributed energy resources.
Jones, Jonathan Spencer. (17 March 2022). Smart grids continue to advance globally. Smart Energy International.
(29 September 2022). Microgrid vs DER vs Smart Grid. VECKTA.