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Smart Grid Technology for Smart Cities

[This Beijing dispatch center controls most of China’s ultrahigh-voltage lines and monitors renewable energy use - State Grid Corp. of China]

- What is the Smart Grid?

"Grid" refers to the grid, network of transmission lines, substations, transformers, etc. that carry electricity from power plants to your home or business. This is what you plug in when you flip a light switch or turn on your computer. 

Our current electrical grid was built in the 1890s and has continued to improve as technology advances each decade. Today, it consists of more than 9,200 generating units generating more than one million megawatts and connected to more than 300,000 miles of transmission lines. While the grid is considered an engineering marvel, we are extending its patchwork nature to its capacity. 

To move forward, we need a new kind of grid built from the bottom up to handle the proliferation of digital and computerized devices and technologies that depend on it—and to automate and manage the increasingly complex power and demand of the 21st century.


- Smart Grid Technologies and Solutions for Smart Cities

Connected smart grids and city buildings in smart cities can save municipalities money by improving the efficiency of how and when they use electricity and other forms of energy. Smart grids with controllable energy loads are enabled by IoT sensors and real-time communications, which help shift energy supply during periods of peak demand. At the same time, smart meters could allow cities and utilities to better coordinate energy supply and demand. 

Investments in smart grid technology also carry risks. As the National Institute of Standards and Technology notes in a draft publication, "NIST Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability Standards," in a traditional grid, "power flows in one direction—from centralized Generation facilities, through transmission lines, and finally through distribution facilities to customers.”

But by nature, the interconnected nature of smart grids - what makes them valuable - also increases their vulnerability.

"While the distributed nature of many new technologies reduces the importance of any single asset, the information capabilities inherent in these devices present previously unknown vulnerabilities," NIST said. "The large number of non-utility stakeholders and the increasing number of devices connected to the smart grid means that - even under the best of circumstances - safe operations are no longer guaranteed by a single organization or security department."

Smart cities deploying smart grid technologies need to ensure that they are safe from cyber attacks. Meet grid demands with advanced, scalable solutions that prepare power systems for future reliability and resilience demands by following infrastructure upgrades.

  • Modernize Protection and Control
  • Distribution Automation and Management
  • Renewable Energy Integration
  • Wide Area Protection, Monitoring and Control
  • Internet Security Services
  • Security enhancement


- How can Smart Grid Technology Benefit Smart Cities?

Smart grid technologies have many benefits for the smart cities that deploy them, either alone or in partnership with utilities. Smart grids can provide more efficient power transmission and faster recovery after power disturbances.

Smart grids also improve the reliability and security of transmission and distribution grids by interconnecting assets. Utilities benefit from reduced operating and management costs, which in turn means lower electricity costs for consumers. Smart grids also integrate customer-owned power generation systems, including renewable energy systems.


- Pervasive Communication and Smart Cities

Pervasive communication is crucial to smart cities, especially smart grids. At the most basic level, municipalities can extend the networks deployed by utilities to support smart grids to deploy other essential public services, such as smart city lighting, transportation and water solutions.

According to a U.S. Department of Homeland Security document, "The Future of Smart Cities: Cyber-Physical Infrastructure Risk," the smart grid—meaning smart power distribution and transmission—includes a variety of "automated, cyber, and cyber-physical devices using" SCADA systems. and other automated equipment to increase response times to partial outages and collect grid performance data faster. 

The sensors allow utilities to gather real-time usage information to better integrate embedded renewable energy generation into the grid and isolate system outages before they spread.

The document states that networked sensors on transformers allow utilities to "track equipment performance and better predict failures, reducing outages and repair costs. 

Finally, adding communication networks throughout the distribution and transmission system will improve overall system intelligence, allowing for better integration of demand response programs, allowing customers to track energy availability and pricing to make consumption decisions accordingly. 

Upon approval by the Public Utilities Commission, utilities (whether municipal or investor-owned) can leverage investments in their network infrastructure beyond the initial smart grid use case to provide value-added services to the city while also creating potential income opportunity itself. 

Smart grids in smart cities also present the opportunity to support electricity initiatives such as distributed generation (rooftop solar), demand response (daily billing), microgrids, and other initiatives that benefit citizens.



[More to come ...]

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