Why Smart Grids?

In the year 1888, Nikola Tesla presented his “New System of Alternate Current Motors and Transformers” [Tesla, 1888], laying the foundation for today’s electricity infrastructure. Tesla’s `new system’ made it possible to transmit electrical power over long distances using a single infrastructure for all power delivery. Previously, generators needed to be located near their loads due to highly-inefficient transmission. Furthermore, multiple electric lines were needed for each application class (lighting, mechanical loads, etc) requiring different voltage levels. Over the course of the century, the electrical power systems of industrialised economies have become one of the most complex systems created by mankind. In the same period, “electricity has made a transition from a novelty, to a convenience, to an advantage, and finally to an absolute necessity” [Berst 2008].

On the other hand, the way in which electricity transmission and distribution networks are operated have  not changed significantly in the century after Tesla’s inventions. Characteristics such as grid structures and systems control in the grid did not change much in the first century of EPS. Now, three major trends are forcing technological changes: (i) the Transition to Sustainability, (ii) the Electrification of Everything, and (iii) Decentralisation of Generation. There is a need for “Smart Grids” In the next three posts we will look into these three trends.

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