Yolanda Villegas
Legal, Compliance and Institutional Relations Director
VEMO

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Expert Contributor

Time for Transmission, Distribution Grids to Get Smart

By Yolanda Villegas | Wed, 06/08/2022 - 11:00

The electrical energy industry is undergoing a technological revolution. The ways in which electricity is generated, transmitted and distributed are constantly changing. Smart grids appear to change the way energy suppliers and their customers interact. Likewise, they seek to be part of the energy transition, in such a way that they can provide support in the integration of renewable energies within the national energy mix and in the development of energy storage in the network.

There is a strong worldwide trend toward the decentralization of electrical energy. Nonetheless, Mexico faces challenges in adopting renewable energy due to its antiquated electrical grid, which was designed to produce energy in geographic spaces that are far from the centers of consumption. Because of that, the grid is not capable of withstanding the frequent injection and withdrawal of renewable energies. That is the reason why the intermittency of renewables is so heavily and passionately discussed. Making the process of transmission and distribution of electrical energy smarter would mean significant savings for all consumers.

This is where smart grids, which are seen as a natural evolution of the traditional grid, come into play. A network of this type should be able to perform functions such as the detection of irregularities within the electrical network and their respective solution without direct human control. This requires robust data support systems that allow the free flow of data so that efforts to balance power supply and demand in an increasingly complex grid can be supported.

Smart grids can make energy more accessible and improve the economies of developing countries because this technology allows greater stability and quality of energy, mainly for the commercial and industrial sectors. Automation and remote controls enable faster decision-making and on-network sensors help improve power quality and reliability. Power outages are identified quickly and power can be diverted more efficiently. This would generate environmental and economic benefits by reducing the amount of energy wasted and improving the efficiency of generation, delivery and consumption.

Advances in Internet of Things (IOT) standards are making smart grids increasingly accessible to producers and consumers. The IoT would allow the various pieces of equipment that make up the network infrastructure to interconnect and share information in such a way that, in the event of any irregularity, it is attended to autonomously, solving faults even before they appear.

Implementing smart management systems for transmission networks requires significant investments for both physical and digital infrastructure. And since the transmission and distribution of electrical energy continues to be an exclusive activity of the state, the best way to encourage its use is through the design and application of public energy policies aimed at modernizing the country's electrical network.

In addition to the benefits mentioned, smart grids fit perfectly with the adoption of other types of technologies, such as those that seek alternative means of sustainable mobility. Beyond just powering electric vehicles, the smart grid would have the ability to allow electric vehicles to convert to electric resources, helping to alleviate the added strain of smart grid operations and intermittent power sources during peak demand periods.

In short, smart grids mean having a more efficient transmission of energy, through preventive and corrective actions that translate into economic savings, a flattening of demand curve and the integration of renewable energies on a large scale. A smart grid will improve the resilience of the electrical system and allow for it to be better prepared for emergency situations. With them, there is an opportunity to take the energy industry to a new stage of reliability, availability and improvement in its efficiency.

Photo by:   Yolanda Villegas