South Koreans are leading the way in their vision for 'smart grid'

South Koreans are leading the way in their vision for 'smart grid'

Smart grid has come to mean many things, but in South Korea, it's a platform for completely rethinking the electricity grid.

There is a lot of discussion of "smart grid" these days. I sometimes feel it is one of those phrases that people use for whatever suits their purposes without much substance behind it. But talking with technical staff and leadership at Korean utilities companies, I found that they have a very clear vision, and there is going to be a huge number of technical opportunities for those who can supply pieces to fulfil that vision.

Smart grid to the South Koreans is a platform for a complete rethinking of the electricity grid to make it capable for the 21st century. To the maximum extent, the "smart" is built into the grid via software rather than hardware. You might think this is more vulnerable to failure they don't see it that way. Rather, they use software for the intelligence because it can be upgraded more regularly, can learn as demand patterns change, and can respond to new technologies more readily.

Within this platform are six key components:

1. Smart power Intelligent monitoring of the demand, high level of fault tolerance and fast restoration in case of failures. In the UK we would add the ability to import large quantities of power from interconnectors, turned on or off with very short notice.

2. Smart service Providing domestic, commercial and industrial customers with electricity tariffs and services tailored to their needs, incorporating the ability to verify test data and to flow power in two directions everywhere.

3. Smart place Allowing the introduction of intelligence in the home, particularly in major appliances that generate most of the demand; real time pricing and demand management.

5. Smart transport Sophisticated systems for managing the connection of massive numbers of electric vehicles to the grid so that their demand is met without overwhelming the system.

6. Smart renewables Connecting a large number, and diverse set, of variable sources of generation to the grid while maintaining high levels of stability.

If we cast our minds back to the early days of the internet, Cisco laid out a vision of this sort for the web, highlighting where all the technology needs were that could make this vision a reality. In response to that vision companies were created, nurtured, and in many cases acquired by Cisco. This is just what the Koreans are doing, and on a grand scale.

Are all the technologies to make this happen commercially available today? No, but the components are there, and if big countries provide the demand then technology suppliers will respond. The grid in the UK in its present form is 60 years old, more or less, and was designed around big coal fired power stations feeding large and small demand centres. Over time it accommodated nuclear and gas generation, and has coped reasonably well with interconnection to French nuclear and substantial amounts of wind. But it is not "smart", certainly not in the sense outlined above. There is now an opportunity to create a lot of new technologies to respond to a real smart grid initiative.

Source: The Guardian

SMART GRID Bulletin March 2017

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