Smarter grids key to sustainable, environmentally friendly electric power generation and distribution

Global energy challenges are pushing governments worldwide to pursue and implement policies and renewable regulations to promote “green power” and lower carbon dioxide emissions.

November 26, 2012

Global energy challenges are pushing governments worldwide to pursue and implement policies and renewable regulations to promote “green power” and lower carbon dioxide emissions.

Increasingly complex power distribution networks require electricity and IT infrastructure to integrate and interconnect all users, including power generators, operators, marketers and consumers as a basic platform for the efficient balance of demand and supply.

Isaac Kruger, manager: offer and technology MV at Schneider Electric South Africa, says the “smart grid” concept combines electricity and IT infrastructure to integrate and inter-connect all users for efficient balance of demand and supply over increasingly complex power networks.

“Everyone has a role to play in making smart grid a reality, the basic platform being energy-efficient companies and active end-users pushing smarter demand to maximise the cost and environmental benefits of greater energy efficiency. Utilities will drive smarter supply to manage the increase in power demand, overcome network complexity and address the environmental concerns.”

“Essentially, power utilities around the globe need to plan and deploy smarter networks to transform yesterday’s disjointed distribution grids into automated, inter-connected systems to serve future generations. There are advanced information management systems for the energy industry that effectively enable smarter operations to reduce costs, cut energy losses, improve maintenance, enhance reliability and offer more green energy options.”

He adds that Schneider Electric’s smart grid solutions for electricity utilities encompass six areas: network management, feeder automation, substation automation, wind power solutions, solar power solutions and small hydro power plant solutions.

Components of the Schneider Electric smart grid solution include Telvent DNA supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) software, a Telvent distribution management system, outage management system and ArcFM Geographic information system (GIS).

Kruger says electricity utilities worldwide are increasingly challenged by stringent performance regulations, particularly regarding outages. “The notion of rewarding good utility performance and punishing poor performance is becoming more widespread with reliability benchmarks offering utilities financial rewards for achieving annual targets in terms of supply interruptions to end users. In Europe, these regulations can either cost or benefit utilities depending upon the quality of their power supply performance.”

To this end, Schneider Electric has a complete power reliability suite of solutions, including feeder automation for supply quality management and network security of power system components, including sensors and fault passage indicators, remote automation and communication systems. Utilities can significantly benefit from improved switching and sectionalisation. Automated switching sequences make it possible for portions of the power distribution system to fix themselves.

“The Ethernet IEC 61850 communication technology supports network availability for the most demanding electrical applications, enabling integrated automation functions such as automatic voltage regulation, capacitor bank management and HV busbar transference as well as monitoring of circuit breakers and transformers.”

The solution, known as PACiS, comprises an Ethernet IEC61850 redundant multi-ring architecture with standard protection relays, IEDs, power meters, MC circuit breakers and SCADA and HMI software to optimise substation management with fast load shedding busbar transfer and voltage regulation features.

Other smart generation solutions are wind power, solar photovoltaic power and hydro-power plants. Schneider Electric’s experience in the field helps utilities to deploy cost-effective and compact solutions that are easy to integrate, implement and operate. In addition, advanced remote control systems communicate and manage alarms and data, ensuring reliable and smooth operation for high availability.