What is the Smart Grid?

In its simplest terms, the phrase “smart grid” refers to digitizing and upgrading the electric infrastructure to allow for multi-way communication.  Currently the electric delivery system provides one-way communication.  As the grid evolves and is upgraded, many parties will have access to energy date and will be able to communicate with the grid.  The smart grid will evolve over time.  The general view is that a smarter grid will accomplish the following:

  • Enables active consumer participation:  The goal is to provide customers with access to more consumer friendly information about their electricity usage, pricing and incentives. The hope is that this new knowledge will influence usage behavior. This leads to a more efficient and reliable operation of the overall grid.
  • Accommodates all generation and storage options:  A smarter grid will integrate power generation and distribution from multiple and widely dispersed sources such as solar, wind and other energy sources including emerging storage technologies.
  • Enables new products, services, and markets:  A smarter grid enables the creation of new electricity markets, from the energy management system at home to technologies that allow consumers and third parties to bid their energy resources into the electricity market.
  • Provides power quality for the digital economy:  A smarter grid provides power quality for the digital economy; helping to monitor, diagnose, and respond to power quality deficiencies. It will dramatically reduce customers’ losses due to poor power quality.
  • Optimizes asset utilization and operates efficiently:  A smarter grid will optimize asset utilization and enable efficient operation by improving load factors, lowering system losses, and managing outages or faults in an enhanced manner. Outage recovery time will improve.
  • Anticipates and responds to system disturbances:  Most of the time, an electric company does not know about an outage until notified by a customer.   A smarter grid will perform continuous self-assessments to detect and analyze issues, take corrective actions to mitigate them and rapidly restore grid problems as necessary. These digital technologies can also handle problems that are too large or quick for human intervention. A smarter grid is often referred to as a self-healing grid. 
  • Operates resiliently against attack and natural disaster:  A smarter grid protects against outside forces by incorporating a system-wide solution that reduces physical and cyber vulnerabilities and enables fast recovery from disruptions. 

“The Modern Grid Strategy: Powering the 21st century economy,” is a four minute video that demonstrates the basic concept of the modern grid and its characteristics. It is published by the Department of Energy.