Distributed Energy Systems Management Information Technology Essay

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Smart Grid and Smart Meters allow power companies to remotely monitor and control electricity output. The new system also will gather energy usage patterns from users and motivate consumers to use electricity during off peak hours to save cost. With the advancement of technology and communication protocols, such system is possible. The smart system has self-regulation functions that reduce line loss and the occurrence of blackouts and interruptions. Smart grid and meter will significantly change our energy system in both distribution and usage from household to industrial consumers.

The purpose of this report is to analyze the Smart Energy System, mainly the two major components: Smart Grid and Smart Meter. The existing power grid has been deployed for nearly a century and investment into development is declining. It has been estimated that population will be doubled by 2030, while tripled by 2040 at the current rate, and energy consumption increases by 12% each year. Electrical energy is vital to all personal and industrial buildings. Therefore, a new efficient energy system that is capable of supporting the required energy load is required. As EPRI has defined a smart grid to be "a power system that serves millions of customers and has an intelligent communications infrastructure enabling the timely, secure and adaptable information flow needed to provide power to the evolving digital economy."

This report consists of information gathered from North America government energy department, power companies, voluntary organizations, and research institutes. The first section presents the present power grid and its limitations. The second section describes the principle of Smart Energy System. Lastly, the third section exhibits the functionality of smart meters in working with the smart grid that form the entire system.


With the present technology and development, electricity is vital to the society. Every aspect of basic life relays on some form of electricity. Electricity also has an important role on the economic sector. US consumers paid an average of $250 billion per year for their electricity usages, which include all households, business, and cooperate. The system power grid has continued to evolve based on Nikola Tesla's model in 1986, which is nearly a century old. It is a complex network that consists of over 10,000 energy generators that provide over millions of megawatts to consumers. Nearly 6,000 power producers operate in North America. A voluntary organization, NAERC, regulates the reliability and help coordinates the power systems.

Figure 1: Growth of Energy Demand

With continuous modifications to the existing system, the reliability is still 99.7% after a century. The present grid generates and supplies electricity to consumers the moment it is generated and provides a "just-in-time product delivery." The approach lowers the cost, as generators could operate at a constant work load. However, generators operating at full load during off-peak hours are not efficient, and they require energy storage or electricity will be wasted. On average, generates operate at 55% efficiency. Large portions of energy produced are wasted and became heat, which contributes to greenhouse gases.

Figure 2: Greenhouse Gas Contribution

2.1 Performance of Existing Grid

Since the demand of energy increases with population growth and advancement of technology, the supplies of electricity have reached their limits and cannot keep up with the increased rate of demand. Aside from the current power infrastructures' aging, transmission lines have higher line loss than before because the system is heavily loaded. This condition heavily affects the reliability and efficiency of the power system, and which could leads to power outages and decreases in quality. Voltage regulations became problematic. Blackouts and interruptions cost consumers $180 billion each year. Maintenance cost for the system has risen dramatically due to aging power generators, transmission line. Nevertheless, the overloaded grid has increased in failures rates and longer periods of blackouts that lead to significant risk.

Figure 3: Effect of Blackouts

2.2 Distribution and Demand

Substations are usually located near consumers and used to distribute lowered voltage power from the power plants to consumers' location. Many Step-down transformers are used throughout the process. Most of the electricity is transmitted through high voltage transmission lines. The interconnected wires, substation, and power generators make the grid.

Several factors affect consumers' use of electricity, such as seasons, weathers, needs, and wants. Usage patterns also differ by time of the day. As a result, peak hours are times when demands are high, and the cost of energy is the highest. Utilities take steps to prevent congestions, so generators need to operate to meet the highest demand, which is their full load. On average, facilities operate at 55% including off-peak hours. Researchers and companies need ways to improve on the efficiency and reliability. One possible solution is a Smart Energy System that consists of monitoring and controlling components and regulating energy supply devices. It also allows users to be billed by time of use and be aware of their energy consumptions.

Figure 4: Growth of Demand

3.0 Smart Meter

As technology advances, there is less tolerance for power outage and inefficiency. Monitoring energy usage of consumers in real time is one of the requirements of the new energy system. Tracking system allows the central control computers can also detect problems on their systems with AMI, which includes the smart meter. Consumers are able to be aware of their consumption rather than being surprised by the electrical bill at the end of month.

Smart meter on installed appliances are important devices. They monitor and regulate energy usages, which include natural gas, water and electricity, and send signals back to the grid's central computer. All data must be in real time to provide accurate and up-to-date information. In addition, smart meter can detect abnormality and immediately inform energy supplier the specific area of power outages. By gathering and learning consumers' usage behaviour, energy company can operates the generators according to the demands for better efficiency.

3.1 Communication

Interaction between meters and control units in the grid are done in real time. As soon as energy consumption data are collected by the smart meter, data are encrypted into signals and transmitted to the central computer for process. The central unit receives data from millions of smart devices and signal each individual to perform different actions that best benefit the grid and consumers.

Signals can be sent through several of popular communication protocols. Communication must be fast, reliable and secured. WiFi, WiMax, GPRS, Zigbee, Zwave, Ethernet, power line, optical fiber are common protocols between smart meters and smart grid.

3.2 Control

An intelligent and stable system must be present to handle and control large amount of data and devices. Therefore, smart meter and smart grid are linked together as they cannot operate separately. Both the smart meter and smart grid could be used as a control unit. Smart meters receive signals from central computer and regulate energy usage of appliances and electronic devices to optimize their efficiency. Appliances must be installed with smart meter as sensors for them to gather information and communicate with the grid.

When the smart meter detects an outage or abnormal activity, it can immediately signal the control unit. The central computer can then analyze the problem and the cause and determine the best solution. With the information gathered from smart meters, control unit can regulate the consumers' power quality by evenly disturbing the energy among all users. Control system is able to reduce voltage in case of power surge. As a result, there are less spikes and instabilities in power level to appliances and increase their survivability.

In many present appliances, such as dryer, washers, and refrigerators are already equipped with forms of smart meters that regulate their own energy output, temperature and display information without a centralized computer. This is the first step of the smart system, while preparing for the communication protocol to be implemented.


Since communication between Smart Grid and Smart Meters are commonly through wireless. Personal identity security is a major concern from many consumers. In addition, a breach in the grid's security would expose important detail information of both utilities and consumers. The service of utilities might experience extensive period of interruptions that requires many hours to repair. A strong cyber security system must be implemented among smart grid and smart systems. Energy utilities would require strong teams of technology experts to develop a defensive mechanism to prevent invasive attacks. As a result NEMA, NIST, SDOs, power companies, and manufacturers worked together and created a standardized approach to handles cybersecurity among utilities. The standardization minimizes capital cost in research and development of defensive mechanism and, at the same time, minimizes risk of breach. Disunited security will be more vulnerable to attacks since manufacturers will have difficult incorporating all the defensive measures in their smart meter productions.

Figure 5: Grid Structure


Table 1: Stages of Grid

The first stage in the implementation of the smart systems is to create regional plans for the grid's expansion and create program to education general public about the new system. Intelligent smart meter needs to be installed on all major appliances as the gateway between the control computer and consumers. During the second, central computer control automatically regulate power quality perfectly through voltage, frequency and power factor, and minimal power loss in transmission lines. At the last stages, affordable energy is supplied from renewable energy sources with low carbon emission. Energy generation, transmission, and usage are completely efficient.


Smart system is consists of Smart Grid and Smart Meter operating mutually. This system is efficient as it is demand responsive, which automatically generates and provides suitable amount of electricity to consumers. By gathering and learning consumers' usage of electricity, utilities can anticipate demands and respond accordingly to reduce blackouts. Real-time access to electricity price allows users to determine the time and duration of appliances' operations. Consumers are able to control their own electrical bills at the end of each month. Sustainable energies, such as wind, solar, hydro energy, are easily intergraded into the smart grid. Smart System is essential in meeting the future's energy demand and to reduce our carbon footprint.