The long-predicted future of distributed generation is now becoming a reality. Customers increasingly are installing and operating behind-the-meter generation systems, creating challenges and...
Smart Grid in America and Europe (Part II)
Past accomplishments and future plans.
its investor-owned utilities to adopt smart grid deployment plans by July 2011. The plans must include a security strategy that addresses consumer information protection. A separate privacy rule will be enacted before allowing third-party access to consumer data. 33
Distributed Generation and Microgrids
One key characteristic of the smart grid is its ability to move away from centralized generation and to accommodate a wide range of distributed generation. Distributed generation includes back-up generators powered by diesel, but the smart grid should incorporate more grid connected distributed generation from renewable sources like wind and solar. 36 Environmental benefits from renewables include reducing natural resource extraction and reducing carbon emissions. In addition, distributed generation based on renewables can further improve efficiency by reducing line losses due to its close proximity to consumers. 37 It can even improve power quality and reliability, important for society’s heavy reliance on communication and digital equipment. Microgrids coordinate distributed generation to create a cluster of generation capable of satisfying local demand. A microgrid can island itself from the regional grid if necessary to preserve its operations. By coordinating a group of microgrids to provide the same amount of generation as a central power plant, distributed generation obviates the need to build new power plants. Distributed generation would no longer be a passive part of the gird, but instead be integrated into the system. 38
Europe has had extensive distributed generation and microgrid R&D since the late 1990s. The E.U.’s Fifth Framework Program (FP5), beginning in 1998 and ending in 2002, involved 50 research projects focused on integration of renewables and distributed generation into Europe’s electricity networks. This research continued through the Sixth Framework Program, which began in 2002 and ended in 2006. 39 Now the Seventh Framework Program, which began in 2007 and will