Powering smart grid roll-out

powering-smart-gridThe race is on to upgrade current electric power systems to “smart grids” by incorporating information and communication technologies (ICTs) to deliver power more efficiently, reliably and sustainably. The global Smart Grid as a Service market is expected to more than quadruple in the next decade, from $1.3 billion in 2016 to $6 billion in 2025, with significant uptake of smart grid technologies in both developing and developed countries, according to a new report from Navigant Research.

Countries making the costly transition to smart grid infrastructure with investments in smart meters, automated meter reading, renewable energies and corresponding investments in ICT infrastructure are looking to recoup expenditures through long-term cost-savings from more efficient and reliable energy systems. Given the scale of investment to modernize power grids over the next ten years, telco and energy providers are working together to ensure smooth and coordinated smart grid roll-out.

To facilitate this cooperation between energy and telecommunications operators, within the ambit of the ITU Regional Initiative on Broadband, the Europe Coordination team along with the European Union’s smart-grid research project, ENERGISE,  are hosting an expert group meeting, Collaborating to Power the Smart Grids for Digital Growth, in Geneva on 28 February. The meeting will examine mechanisms to strengthen collaboration between business, policy, regulatory, infrastructure and technical stakeholders. ENERGISE has prepared a Toolkit for cooperation between energy and telecommunications providers with the aim to spur further investment projects across the EU.

“Project ENERGISE has been investigating collaboration of energy providers and telecommunications providers in the Smart Grid roll-out across European Member States for almost two years. One of our main findings is that converged regulators perform significantly better in facilitating the exchange among market actors with quick roll-out,” says Dr. René C.G. Arnold, Head of Department Markets and Perspectives at WIK-Consult GmbH. “In fact, they play an essential mediating role in the process.”

Europe’s smart grid expansion

In the European region, there are over 400 projects to upgrade power grids, as of 2014. The European Joint Research Centre has created an interactive map to view all Smart Grid Projects. This month, the United Kingdom revealed its new Industrial Strategy with a direct focus on smart grids and upgrading the country’s energy infrastructure to be more sustainable. Turkish utilities are expected to invest $9.3 billion in grid upgrades and other smart grid investments during the next five years, making it a key market for smart-grid growth.

In line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for Affordable and Clean Energy (SDG 7), Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure (SDG 9), and Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11) smart grids will play a crucial role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and meeting several SDG targets.

Related: Can investing in connectivity help combat climate change?

As smart grids will be an essential feature of all future Smart Sustainable Cities – innovative cities that use ICTs and new technologies to improve quality of life and efficiency of services – the two-way flow of information and energy will require harmonized regulatory and commercial frameworks along with shared technical standards and protocols for telco and energy industries to ensure a smooth transition to smart grids. The ITU report, Boosting energy efficiency through Smart Grids, highlights the need for the interoperability of standards to facilitate the upgrade to smart grids.

Find out more about smart grids and their role in climate change mitigation and discover the work of United 4 Smart Sustainable Cities (U4SSC) to ease transition to smart sustainable cities.

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