Working with Smart Grid

Digital lifestyle

It is obvious that network-compatible electronic household meters will bring the IT and electricity industries closer together. No wonder, since the computer-aided control and administration of complex power grids represents a future billion-dollar market. For example, Cisco recently presented a holistic smart grid concept. A whole range of hardware and software products is intended to help set up intelligent power grids and make them more effective. For example, Cisco's EnergyWise software is supposed to determine the energy consumption of connected IT and network devices.

Due to the fact that the infrastructure has hardly changed in the past 100 years, it is only through digitized measurement or meter reading that modern load and consumption management is possible. "In Germany, so-called smart meters - data-enabled electricity meters - are currently being installed as part of around 60 test projects. However, there are still no concrete figures with regard to any potential savings," an expert from the German Association for Energy and Water Management (BDEW) told pressetext.

Digital electricity meters are designed to provide the much-needed data for identifying consumption and demand patterns. On this basis, new types of tariff models for end consumers could be developed. Electricity consumers would live no longer as passive recipients of electricity bills. Rather, as has long been the case in telecommunications, they would be sensitized to their demand behavior through different tariff and usage models. Consumers would also have the opportunity to conclude usage contracts according to their habits and needs.

In terms of load management, there are further options for reducing costs and pollutants. For example, peaks in consumption can currently only be managed by connecting power capacities with a dubious environmental balance. Most of these are coal-fired power plants with a corresponding ecological footprint. "Such power plants operate 365 days a year, but are actually only needed during peak periods for a few days a year," says Scott Lang, CEO of Silver Spring Networks, in the Financial Times.

Since Cisco's concept of smart grids should enable bidirectional data communication in addition to power transmission, even the most complex power grids can be managed efficiently in the future. In view of the looming decentralization of electricity generation, for example, the feed-in of alternative energy sources from small power plants could be carried out in an optimized manner. The power supply could also be designed more efficiently based on usage profiles for regions, building complexes or city districts. When it comes to network management, the IT industry already has enough know-how to cope with the upcoming tasks. (pte)