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Making the Grid Smarter with Digitalisation

Digitalisation is changing the face of the energy ecosystem. From smart meters to smart energy controls, global investment in digital electricity infrastructure reached US$47 billion in 2016. At the forefront of this smart revolution is the emerging landscape of smart grid technology. This digitalisation of transmission and consumption infrastructure forms the foundation for safer, more sustainable and more efficient electricity networks.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates digital measures could save as much as US$ 80 billion annually around the globe. But those benefits aren’t ambitions for the future, they’re being adopted by utility companies around the globe today. Here are 6 benefits of smart grid technologies and examples of their implementation around the world.

1. An investment in efficiency – TNB, Malaysia

Malaysian national electricity provider TNB is set to invest RM2.7 billion into ‘The Grid of the Future’. A key part of realising the benefits of this smarter grid comes from the opportunity to enhance efficiency. TNB’s pilot smart meter programme has already revealed some of the potential benefits of efficiency from digitalisation. With this programme due to be rolled out in Melaka and Klang Valley by 2021, the opportunity to inform electricity consumption could see even greater efficiency savings to come.

At the heart of continued drives to enhance efficiency in smart grid technology is the ability to collaborate and deliver new technologies in partnership. Recent commitments towards strategic partnership with tech-driven companies such as Siemens and Trilliant show how innovation and efficiency can be driven by new smart grid technologies in collaboration.

2. Unlocking renewable opportunity – deX, Australia

Smart grid technologies offer an innovative new framework to unlock pioneering electricity generation opportunities in renewable energy. Australia’s Decentralised Energy Exchange (deX) is combining smart grid technologies with distributed renewable energy solutions to create a new marketplace for energy generation and trading.

With around 1.6 million Australian homes fitted with rooftop solar panels, the deX smart grid solution provides a digital marketplace where home-based batteries communicate with an exchange in real-time, enabling consumers and prosumers to create their own interconnected smart grid that allows them to generate and trade excess renewable energy.

3. Supporting sustainable ecosystems – City of Palo Alto, California

The City of Palo Alto, California, USA, introduced an integrated smart grid technology that not only tracks electricity use, but integrates with the wider water and waste utilities networks to provide a fully integrated overview of the carbon and sustainability footprint of the entire city.

This innovative technology not only provides the data to understand and reduce energy consumption, it provides a city-wide oversight into the full sustainability footprint of the entire city, allowing policymakers to make informed decisions on sustainability issues.

4. Improved operational reliability – Philadelphia, USA

Real-time data insight offers a powerful tool in ensuring continued system availability and reduced downtime. Smart grid technologies not only detect and flag transmission problems, they can intelligently analyse and reroute power along alternative routes to ensure continued electricity transmission.

Philadelphia electricity company PECO implemented a smart grid solution which combined communications infrastructure with smart meter deployment to 784,000 electricity consumers. The integration of these technologies improved system outage management significantly – in one case reducing restoration time by three days after a major storm. The technology also improved voltage control across the cities substations which helped contribute to reduced energy loss.

5. A vehicle for smart energy storage – Utrecht, Netherlands & Ontario, Canada

Smart grid technologies provide an ideal foundation for innovative energy storage solutions. The city of Utrecht in the Netherlands is operating an ingenious storage system utilising a Vehicle to Grid (V2G) system that actually uses electric vehicles’ batteries as a storage unit for excess energy. Alongside innovative solar-powered electric vehicle charging stations, this technology could integrate with a wider smart grid to provide a resilient and innovative energy generation and storage opportunity.

Image Credit: Vehicle to Grid UK (

It’s not just direct electricity storage which can benefit from this type of innovation. The City of Summerside in Ontario, Canada, is using smart grid technologies to combine renewable wind power with heat storage. Excess energy generated by wind at times of low demand can be stored as heat in home heating and water systems, helping provide low-carbon heat energy that efficiently utilises the excess electricity generated.

6. Accelerating future innovation for digitalisation – Elia, Belgium

Belgian electricity transmission system operator Elia are pushing beyond digitalisation opportunities today, to support acceleration of opportunity into the future. The system operator recently launched a collaboration with Accelerace, Europe’s no. 1. seed accelerator, in order to nurture the future of digital-focussed electricity startups.

Elia already has a history of embracing digitalisation opportunities through start-ups, taking a minority stake in digital start-up Enervalis. This partnership provided Elia with access to smart energy system solutions through software-as-a-service platforms, empowering customers to better meet changing supply and demand fluctuations in electricity markets. Elia’s commitment to supporting further innovation through its start-up collaborations offers the perfect example of how innovation in digitalisation isn’t just about the opportunity today, but about constantly working to enhance and embrace digital opportunities tomorrow.

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