Smart Grids

Smart grids are intended to be a vital element for a more environment-friendly energy system. However, the development is still in the initial stages. A number of technical, social, financial and legal questions must first be dealt with.

Smart grids is the term used to describe electricity networks that use modern information and communication technologies to coordinate and control the various elements. In the grid of the future, it should be possible to reduce transmission losses, improve the use made of existing transmission capacities, cut the costs for future expansions of the network to a minimum and integrate a number of new decentralised power stations and storage systems.

Changing energy sector

Smart grids are seen as being essential for the further expansion of systems for electricity generation from renewable sources such as wind, sun, or biomass. They should also eliminate the risks of an unreliable supply of electricity or poor quality electricity. The implementation of this technical vision is still in its early stages. Many questions are unanswered, but this also means that there is still political and social scope for manoeuvre. In this early stage of development, TA can make an important contribution.

Creating new structures

The ITA is looking at questions of the social and technical design of future smart grids, and at general questions of governance. This means the way the various elements of society and their interests can be coordinated in this new field of technology development. One central issue, for instance, is how positive ecological objectives can be achieved while taking account of the interests of the electricity customers. Another important question is what technologies and organisational principles can be used to make the existing infrastructure more flexible and hence more efficient.

Controversial digital electricity meters

A side-effect of the future smart grids that is at present highly controversial is the question of digital electricity meters. These meters, also called smart meters, can record not only the actual consumption of energy but also the time when it is consumed. In addition, they can be used to communication this data to the energy provider automatically. The aim is to charge for electricity depending on the time when it is used.

So far, digital meters are seen to have problems and weaknesses as well as advantages:. The devices use more electricity than the mechanical meters previously used. They do not reduce energy consumption as much as expected. There are questions of data protection that have still not been solved, and there is no agreement on who is to pay for their widespread introduction.

The ITA has specifically examined questions of data protection in the Smart New World? project and put forward proposals for improving the protection of privacy in connection with smart meters.

Not just electricity anymore – our energy system is changing