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Smart Grid in America and Europe (Part I)

Similar desires, different approaches.

Fortnightly Magazine - January 2011

efficiency by reducing energy losses and increasing power transfers. 13 Reliability will improve because of the grid’s ability to use a variety of energy sources, including local distributed generation, and to increase flexible consumption through automatic response and consumer choice. 14 These direct benefits result from upgrades to the grid itself, meaning the poles, wires, substations, and power plants. Other secondary benefits aren’t upgrades to the grid itself, but those made possible by upgraded grid facilities. Examples include the economic benefits from efficient energy management in power transfers, new consumer tools such as responsive consumer appliances, and electric or plug-in electric hybrid vehicles. 15

The E.U. and the U.S. similarly anticipate the smart grid to be an optimally performing grid capable of meeting future social needs by utilizing digital and communication technology. At the very least it will function to allow for greater consumer participation and will have the flexibility to incorporate different types and sizes of generation sources. The smart grid will contribute three basic benefits: efficient operations, reliable service, and the best economical value. The definition, functions, and benefits of the smart grid create the complete picture of the smart grid.

E.U. Smart Grid Policy

While the definitions and goals are similar, the approaches of the two governments to making the smart grid a reality vary in organization and topic. An overview of the E.U. and U.S. responses shows that the E.U. focuses more on research and deployment plans based on the SmartGrids European Technology Platform goals and priorities. Until the recent smart grid funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the U.S. engaged in more legislative development efforts than government backed deployment of research and development (R&D).

The E.U.’s smart grid implementation seeks to achieve a long term “20/20/20” goal, which means cutting emissions by 20 percent and increasing renewable energy generation to 20 percent of the energy mix by 2020. 16 In 2009, the European Commission adopted the third energy package, which required 80 percent of homes in the 27 member countries to have smart meters by 2020. 17 Since then, the commission has been working on a possible legislative framework for the smart grid that may address the need for standards and regulation on data security to be adopted in 2011. 18 The commission, however, may choose not to adopt guidelines, a framework, or directives. Instead, it’s considering less formal avenues and recommendations at the national and E.U. level. 19

The E.U. uses several plans and programs to facilitate new smart grid technology, including the SmartGrids European Technology Platform for the Electricity Networks of the Future (SmartGrids ETP), the European Electricity Grid Initiative (EEGI) Roadmap and Implementation Plan , the E.U. Framework Program, and the European Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET Plan). 

The SmartGrids European Strategic Energy Technology Platform : The SmartGrids ETP is the main guiding document for smart grid development in the E.U. The European Commission created the European Research Area as a forum to share, coordinate, and fund E.U. research and policies on new technology. 20 The SmartGrids ET P