With increasing frequency smart cities are turning to smart grids to help them meet reduced carbon emission targets and help improve the efficiency of renewable energy. Smart grids are a key element in the ability to improve the way energy is leveraged, stocked, and distributed, irrespective of how far away that city might be from its solar or wind farms, to effectively reduce waste.
Saying this, there are lots of other reasons why cities are rapidly moving to install smart grids. Sensing and measurement technologies enable unprecedented levels of dual communication between consumers and power companies. Allowing consumers to reduce their costs and providing power companies with reams of data that they can sell on to planning authorities.
We address some of the technologies that have been incorporated into smart grids to enable many of these great outcomes.
Incorporating Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Smart grids produce an incredible amount of data that can be analyzed using AI and turned into valuable insights. Data metrics can range from factors like weather conditions, demand and supply records, and location. With this information, operators can make better decisions regarding the distribution of energy from place to place, proactively ensure supply and minimal wastage. For consumers, having smart grids that use AI means they can learn how much energy individual appliances are consuming, and figure out how to reduce their costs by adjusting their usage.
One UK-based supplier, Upside Energy, uses automated algorithms to match demand with available supply to help smart grids deal with fluctuations and improve supply during peak usage.
Multi-purpose energy distribution
Providing a great use case for incorporating renewable energy, this is where smart grids have been integrated with infrastructure such as benches, poles, and bus shelters that host solar panels and are able to collect energy which can then be channeled to charging stations, street lighting, and traffic lights.
This has enormous value to support underprivileged communities that have minimal access to electricity. Solutions like these are already being used in developing countries like Indonesia, Mali, and India. In fact, many developing cities and towns around the world are leveraging new technologies to help provide adequate energy supply to their local communities.
Incorporating blockchain technology
Blockchain has proved to be a valuable solution to enabling the local energy marketplace. One example of this is WePower which based on blockchain technology has developed a green energy marketplace, where energy is exchanged through the use of smart contracts.
A green energy marketplace is where consumers have more control over their energy usage and the tariffs that they have to pay for consumption. In these marketplaces instead of paying a flat rate, consumers only pay for what they’ve used. Furthermore, consumers can contribute to energy stores with their own renewable energy sources, like solar panels that are installed on their roofs, which they can sell to the group. The smart contract used over the blockchain enables this advanced level of decentralized power production and facilitates these exchanges.
Smart grid cyber protection
With all the value that can be enabled by smart grids, the smart cities that are deploying them are becoming increasingly aware of the risks that they present. Smart grids hold an enormous amount of data that relates to utility consumption and consumer information, a single breach could not only jeopardize the integrity of this data, it could disrupt energy supply, potentially bringing down an entire supply network. 80% of cities acknowledge legal obligations for privacy and data protection and many are in the process of conducting impact assessments when deploying new technology.
To successfully sell to this market, manufacturers of smart grids should invest in the cybersecurity capabilities of their product. Not only will it give them a valuable edge to win city tenders, but it will ensure that all the benefits that their smart grids deliver will continue to be enjoyed well into the future.