Electricity delivered from suppliers to consumers using two-way digital communication is more than just a smart idea, it is the latest in green energy deployment. Smart grid technology uses intelligent monitoring devices and systems to keep track of electricity flows, while enhancing reliability and improving energy efficiencies.
At peak times of energy consumption, the grid can turn off selected home appliances to reduce demand and the amount of wasted electricity. By using sophisticated communications systems that allow for quick, automatic responses in the event of a massive blackout, this technology will also connect independent energy producers. This greater re-generating capacity is not found in outdated systems.
This change reduces the burden on utilities that traditionally have had to bear the cost of all the systems development, installation and maintenance on their own.
“Hardly a day goes by without somebody talking about the pros and cons of smart grids,” says Ed Tymofichuk, Vice-President of Transmission at Manitoba Hydro. Tymofichuk says that a well thought out and timely development of smart grid applications should contribute to a reduction in carbon emissions.
Monitoring daily energy use is just one way consumers can save money with a smart meter. The smart grid is programmed to shut off specific energy consumption outlets to save the Canadian-consumer money on their electricity
bills at the end of each month.
Tymofichuk is aware of the potential and envisions Canada moving in the right direction at a rapid pace, regardless of lengthy efforts needed to establish standardization.
“I think it’s fair to say that the development of standards, historically and usually, is a relatively slow-moving process,” he says. “We can now say unequivocally that industry people are really moving quickly on smart-grid standards, faster than traditional development of other standards, and that tells a story.”
The Manitoba Hydro smart grid is aligned with Saskatchewan, Ontario and the U.S. which means overlapping standards across North America will help unify smart grid services.
“When you look at this from a high level, you’ve got to have standards, because grids are inter-connected,” says Tymofichuk.
The combination of smart grids and the promotion of harmonization interoperability are expected to help lower costs while providing better service, an especially appealing benefit during the current economic downturn. The reliable deployment of green energy can only happen with the development and implementation of universal standards. Switching to a new technology will always have its challenges, but putting the necessary standards in place to address these grid changes, will help ensure a smoother transition.
“Without the right standards, the industry can stumble so we need to get it right and to get it out there because the world will pass us by if we take too long,” adds Tymofichuk.
By adopting harmonized standards, Canada, the U.S. and other countries will be able to maximize the value of a shared grid. Technology that overlaps into other sectors and regions is especially dependent on standardization practices which take into account the differences between countries. Smart grid installations have the potential to impact and improve other new related technologies.
Electric Vehicles will benefit from having a readily available power source when travelling far away from their primary plug at home, by using smart grid power to regenerate.
According to Don Tench, Director of Market Assessment and Compliance at the Independent Electricity System Operator, who manages Ontario’s Smart Grid Forum, the potential for smart grid technology to apply to a range of sectors shows just how much research and development is being done to ensure sustainability.
“Whatever is implemented, we have to think about the future and do it in a way with IT infrastructure and so on, that is flexible and scalable,” says Tench. He adds that where there are standards, the ability to bring products to market and integrate them is accelerated.
As Canadians move towards greener forms of energy consumption and cleaner sources of power, the North American Smart Grid has the potential to power that sustainability for generations to come.
This article first appeared in Volume 37 of CONSENSUS Magazine, 2010. The information it contains was accurate at the time of publication but has not been updated or revised since, and may not reflect the latest updates on the topic. If you have specific questions or concerns about the content, please contact the Standards Council of Canada.