Cables symbolizing smart grids; Source: dpa

© dpa

Smart grids need to balance the fluctuating power generated with renewable energy and the actual consumption. This involves a shift from the conventional "consumption-based power generation" to "production-based consumption".

Information and communication technology will play a central role in connecting the components in the energy systems. It will facilitate the monitoring and optimisation of the interlinked components. The aim is to ensure the power supply on the basis of an efficient and reliable operation of the system.

The concept of the "smart grid" describes the communicative connection of the actors in the energy supply system to the power supply grid, from power generation, transmission, storage and distribution through to the consumption of the electricity. The basic idea is that each device which is connected to the electricity grid should be integrated on a "plug & play" basis. This creates an integrated data and energy grid with completely new structures and functions. The conventional electricity meters will soon be replaced by modern smart measurement systems ("smart meters"). They will be valuable assistants in the "smart grid" which will not only measure the power consumption or the electricity fed into the grid for accounting purposes, but will also record voltage failures and provide the grid operators with important information so that the power generation, grid loads and consumption can largely be adjusted automatically. Even the smart control of power consumption and storage devices in households can be made possible with smart measurement systems. They can give the consumer visual feedback about his own consumption patterns and thus help to save electricity costs. Smart measurement systems can also open the door to variable and "customised" tariffs and account plans. In future this technology can help to reduce the demand for expensive electricity in peak periods, thus reducing the load on the grids or using the grid capacity more effectively and helping to preserve the reliability of the power supply.

In Germany, the first smart grid activities were combined under the auspices of the national government initiative "E-energy - IT-based energy system of the future".

E-energy was declared to be a landmark project of the German government, and up to 2013 the government provided total subsidies of about 140 million euros for six pilot projects in which the use of information technology in the energy sector was explored and tested. In addition, general themes which transcend individual projects, such as the legal framework (including data protection) and standardisation, were also studied. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy contributed 40 million euros in subsidies.

Launch of new funding programme SINTEG

The new funding programme "Smart Energy Showcases - Digital Agenda for the Energy Transition" (SINTEG) aims to develop and demonstrate in model regions new approaches to safeguarding secure grid operation with high shares of intermittent power generation on the basis of wind and solar energy.

ICT-based smart grids in the SINTEG model regions are to safeguard system security for the feed-in of electricity generated from up to 100% renewable energy and demonstrate greater interplay between electricity generation, consumption, storage, and the grid.

For further information on SINTEG, please click here.