The modern electric grid is a marvelous feat of human ingenuity. Networks of generators, transmission lines and load centers now span the entire human inhabited globe. The expansion of electric grid is now pushing its limits. When billions of consumers are connected to a system, it creates oodles of challenges. Frequent power outages, faults, regular maintenance, overloading and carbon emissions are some of those challenges that are needed to be addressed promptly. To tackle these challenges, there’s a dire need to make the grid more efficient; to revolutionize the way our conventional grid works.

We live in an era of advanced technologies where everything is becoming more and more ‘smart’thanks to better control systems, communications, decision making algorithms etc. So, it is no wonder why we couldn’t make use of these technologies to revolutionize the Electric Grid. The concept that an electric grid can operate on optimum performance, gather data for better management and decision making is what a Smart Grid is. However, establishing and operating a smart grid brings with it more challenges and opportunities.

A Smart Grid essentially provides both exchange of information as well as electricity within the grid. This provides an edge over conventional grid since the information can be utilized to make better decisions; to optimize the output. Among other functions and aspects of a smart grid is to effectively store excess energy and improve energy consumption throughout the dynamic load centers. It must also ensure the stability of the power system. Smart controls systems detect faults and work on rectifying them. Smart energy meters share useful analytics with both the consumer and the utility to help in better energy management. The use of renewable energy to lower the overall carbon footprint is also a key objective and aspect of a Smart Grid. If properly implemented, all these functions can create an intelligent, robust and highly productive electric grid.

The changes required to transform a conventional electric grid into a smart electric grid must address all the challenges that might arise while fulfilling the primary objective of making the grid more reliable and more environmentally friendly. One of the biggest challenges arising in a smart grid is the safety and security of the system and data. Modern warfare tactics can pose a severe threat to the integrity of a smart grid by hacking and disrupting the electricity supply. Effective encryption and protection systems must be installed to address this issue. The Smart Grid must also generate useful data that can help manage and conserve energy both at utility and consumer end. Smart grid must also make use of renewable energy effectively by storing the extra energy produced for later use.

Smart grid is a wonderful opportunity to revolutionize the electric grid. With increasing energy consumption and choking natural resources, a smart electric network is the only way forward. An efficient Smart Grid is one that fulfills the fundamental requirements to automate the operation and reduce the carbon footprint.

Author: Abdullah Haider Ali

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