To achieve this mission, electrical grid uses new digital information and communication technologies. Each part of the grid (producer, consumer or distributor, tiny or big) becomes a communicating and interactive item. Through data exchanges, it is possible to create strategies in order to adapt supply and demand in real time.
A new sector is developing with smart grids, requiring various skills: the most obvious are energetic and electro-technical ones, or computing, numerical and environmental skills but also unexpected abilities like psychological ones for analysing use and acceptability of those new devices.
Architecture of a smart grid
There are three levels:
- the physical grid that consists of lines, transformers… to forward and direct energy
- the communication structure (optical fiber, GRPS, CPL…) to collect and transmit data
- the application and service level (remote troubleshooting tools, local management of electrical demand…)
Currently, instrumentalization exists only to ensure transport with operational security. Considering the high number of structures, the amount of sensors on the distribution network is low, but adding new electrical sources implies increasing this number. Closer to consumers, smart electricity meters accurately and in real time count the flow of energy exchanged.
The consumer becomes an actor
Nowadays, supply/demand balance is ensured by anticipating electrical consumption with historical and meteorological databases so as to constantly adjust production. The only way to adjust the balance is through production. Smart grids, particularly smart electricity meters, inform consumers, allowing them to become actors in energy management.
From centralized to local management
Formerly, production was centralized and controlled at a national scale: energy sources were only huge power plants. From now on, decentralized producers are linked to the distribution network instead of the transport network. So distribution of electricity should be designed at a local scale and then a national scale.
New storage possibilities
To overcome intermittent and fluctuating production issues, we can store the energy. Storing also helps system empowerment. Many ways to store energy have appeared: from PSH (Pumped-storage hydroelectricity) proving its efficiency for 40 years to more innovative technologies like flywheel, CAES (Compressed air energy storage)… Studies in the field of energy storage are multiplying.
From the electric grid to the energetic grid
The smart grid concept extends to the smart energy grid, mixing electricity, gas, heat and their respective storage.