The growth in power consumption has policy makers around the world focusing on having power utilities deploy smart grids. As a result, they also need understand the critical role in the transition to the smart use of electricity that leveraging the capabilities of next generation communications networks can and must play to maximize smart grids functionality.
A recent publication done by Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) in collaboration with Government Technology, Creating your Smart Grid - a How-To Guide, offers a practical approach to the challenges and opportunities that exist in the transition to the smart grid. The primary goal for all service providers involved is to secure, manage, integrate and extend the smart grid network with the necessary communications technology to ensure efficiency.
A smart grid gets it smarts, and can thus improve the efficiency of power delivery process, through the collection and then analysis of real-time data generated by enhanced communications that facilitate data transmission from critical touchpoints like smart meters and various types of sensors enabling the rapid reactions necessary for effective load shedding by electric utilities along with other improvements to better manage power consumption.
To enable the smart grid, electric utilities have specific challenges to overcome. These include:
- Improving power delivery
- Increasing operational efficiency
- Incorporating green energy
- Engaging customers in energy management
By focusing on each element, the service provider not only improves their position in the smart grid evolution, they also improve customer satisfaction.
Fortunately, a high-performance, integrated communications networkcan help with improvements in each of these areas. At the same time the integrity of existing applications can be preserved while the smart grid is introduced. When costs can also be controlled and current assets optimized, the opportunity for growth and success is expanded.
As the guide explains, before the smart grid can become a reality, the foundation must be built. This demands the creation of an end-to-end strategy and the gathering and leveraging of critical information. Likewise, utilities must engage customers in the management of energy and use technology to the most effective point through automation, distribution and integration with smart meter technology. In addition, disaster recovery must be improved and the workforce optimized through mobility for the smart grid to deliver the most value.
The smart grid extends the generation of data through the deeper distribution of intelligence as enabled by the communications network. Utility managers will have more information than ever before to manage their facilities and make better decisions about the future. They also will be able to respond more rapidly to issues and outages and create better relationships with customers by leveraging the knowledge they obtain and share. To successfully extend network presence and visibility for optimal efficiency and effectiveness, the guide recommends utilities:
- Know their requirements
- Consider applications that a priorities
- Choose the right technologies
- Do an RF analysis for wireless to enable key machine-to-machine (M2M) capabilities
- Focus on network sustainability
- Go wireless without ignoring the wired network
- Manage the complexity of the deployment
- Ensure high availability of their networks and the underlying communications network
- Integrate the backhaul parts of their next gen network and make the entire network secure
A tangible impact of proper smart grid deployments as enabled by a high-performance, integrated communications network is that communications with customers will be improved as will response times during emergencies.
Ultimately, improvements are realized when existing applications are preserved while the smart grid is introduced. A number of key elements must still be addressed in order to ensure the adoption of the smart grid, including a full educational focus for the consumer base. When executed correctly, the build out is likely to be a success.
The guide is a good place to start. In fact, a follow-up article next week will take a look at the guide’s recommendations on: securing your network, managing your network, realizing green energy and deployment strategies. These are all interesting food for thought.
Edited by Peter Bernstein