Are power grids smart?

The hidden power behind everyday life

Electricity is an almost invisible everyday commodity. Heat and cooling are automatically triggered. The lights switch on. Fresh air flows inside. Online content and services are at our disposal. Electricity enables countless functions that make everyday life easy and smooth.

These functions draw energy from the power grid, which was designed and built to supply electricity continuously, safely, and efficiently. As the energy backbone of our society, economy and wellbeing, the power grid must be reliable at all times.

Structural solutions and fast automation

Component selections and structural solutions have been used to improve the reliability of the power grid. Underground cabling and covered overhead lines reduce storm outages in particular. Passive solutions are not enough but are complemented by smart functions with multiple benefits. Overall, the power grid is getting smarter.

Most of the grid’s ‘smartness’ is about ensuring a quality power supply and safe distribution: this really comes into play only when we consumers notice a disruption. Smart automation of the power grid kicks in before we can say ‘outage’. More and more aspects of the disconnection and isolation of faulty networks, and restoration of the power supply, are being automated.

Effective remote monitoring in real time

Remote control and monitoring software lies at the heart of smart grids, monitoring their status and re-routing the power supply where necessary. Remotely read electricity meters continuously report on low-voltage networks, warning about faults before customers can call them in. Due to high-precision targeting of repairs, remote monitoring hugely reduces the duration of annoying outages. In addition, the number of costly customer visits falls markedly, while the service level improves.

Connecting solar power and electric cars to the grid — smartly

In addition to its basic functions, the power grid is increasingly a connection point and transmission route for solar and wind power. The grid is designed and built to support bi-directional, distributed power supply. A smart grid is also needed for levelling out fluctuations in our daily production and consumption. Smart functions ensure that the services can go online, transport goes electric, and low-carbon industrial processes have a reliable power supply.

Energy communities, formed by consumers to generate renewable energy, are growing in popularity. Here, the power distribution challenge lies in replacing fossil energy sources with environmentally friendly, renewable electricity.

At its best, the smartness of the power grid is inconspicuous at everyday level, enabling our carefree enjoyment of the many ways in which electricity eases our lives.