What is Smart Grid?

According to the European technology platform «smart grids are electricity networks that can intelligently integrate the behavior and actions of all users connected to it - generators, consumers and those that do both – in order to efficiently deliver sustainable, economic and secure electricity supplies.» We do not perceive smart grids as a single concept or a technology. It is rather a combination of applications, some of which are innovations, while others refer to technologies which have been in use for years.

Smart grids do not only supply power but also information and intelligence. It’s the communication system that brings to the grid its “smartness”, because it allows the real-time monitoring of current conditions of the grid, the preventive management and the capacity to react immediately to the alarming events in the grid. A smart grid employs innovative products and services together with intelligent monitoring, control, communication, and self-healing technologies in order to:

On the generation/ transmission/distribution network levels

  • Enable more efficient operation and management of generators of all sizes and technologies on one grid
  • Automate and centralize the distribution networks, minimize the necessity of the personnel dispatch by adding on intelligent sensors and remote control switches
  • Control the load selectively in order to avoid blackouts
  • Island microgrids to improve system’s reliability


On the consumer level

  •  Provide customers with better information, awareness and choices for supply
  • Control and shed customers’ load
  • Let customers play the role in optimizing the network operation Deploy meters that can communicate to the customers and enable them to regulate their energy consumption.


Despite the common belief smart grid is not smart metering. While intelligent meters can be a part of smart grids, the latter is a much
broader set of technologies and solutions.

 


Source: Smart Grids: European Technology Platform


Why Smart Grid in Africa?

Smart grid, a concept that nobody spoke about 3-4 years ago, is now among the leading strategic directions of big energy groups throughout the world. Cumulated global investment in the smart grids by 2015 is estimated at 45 bn. USD (Source: ABI research). Developing African countries will definitely become a part of this movement.

In the South African case, Eskom, the sole country's electrical utility told the businesses they can expect only 90% of their electrical needs to be met through 2012 (Source: Smart Grid News). Building new generation units to cover current South Africa's needs will take another eight years. By deploying smart grid initiatives South Africa will have an efficient and cost-effective way to resolve its energy emergency.

Smart grids have a great potential of bringing manageable, affordable and sustainable power throughout the whole African continent.