Tuesday

18th Sep 2018

Focus

Smart grids line up in fight against climate change

  • A system of devices will increasingly allow customers and utility companies to synchronise supply and demand (Photo: eastpole)

Smart grids are increasingly seen as a crucial weapon in the world's fight against climate change, with the EU among those rallying behind the new technology.

With global energy consumption set to rise dramatically over the next fifteen years, not least as an additional 350 million Chinese citizens move into cities, the need to use electricity more efficiently has never been higher, say industry experts.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"Smart grids are a lot about empowering us to engage with energy," says Scott Lang, CEO of SilverSpring Networks, a California-based company leading the way in developing technology that allows customers to view their electricity usage at any given point, including from individual appliances.

While this enables households to cut bills by using energy-consuming devices at low-rate times of day, it also enables utility companies to cut peak-time demand and avoid costly blackouts.

The need for a better alignment between supply and demand is also being driven by renewable energies and the forecast rise in plug-in electric cars, already in evidence on the roads around Silicon Valley.

"While [American inventor] Thomas Edison's model was very successful at creating centralised power stations a hundred years ago, we still haven't cracked the code on storing electricity," said Mr Lang, whose company seeks to link households and utility companies via a web of external wireless devices, smart meters and software.

During one pilot study using the technology in Oklahoma, electricity customers cut peak usage by 20 percent and made average monthly savings of $37.

The system's reliance on internet technology has sparked fears of hacking and data abuse, but governments around the world appear to be jumping on board.

"Smart grid technologies are needed to allow for a cost-effective evolution towards a decarbonised power system," declared European Commission proposals published on Wednesday (17 November) as part of the bloc's 2020 energy plan.

"[They allow] for the management of vast amounts of renewable on-shore and off-shore energy, while maintaining availability for conventional power generation and power system adequacy," continued the document.

Austria, Belgium, France, Denmark, Germany, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, Spain and the UK are member states where smart grid projects are already underway.

With so much interest, it is little wonder that IT giant Google is investing in the new technology, recently developing its own Google Power Meter - a free software programme which allows electricity users to monitor their real-time energy use.

The programme is only available to households whose electricity provider has an agreement with Google, currently only First Utility (UK) and Yello Strom (Germany) in Europe.

But there are plans for expansion.

"Today we have about a dozen utility partners around the world and we are looking at how to grow this space and grow the whole ecosystem," said Google energy czar Bill Weihl.

China urges Germany and France to solve euro-crisis

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao on Thursday offered vague promises to buy bonds from troubled euro-countries, but said that it is ultimately up to Germany and France to solve the crisis.

News in Brief

  1. EU investigating BMW, Daimler and VW 'collusion'
  2. Spain wants special Gibraltar chapter in Brexit deal
  3. Italy cancels Vienna talks over South Tyrol 'dual citizenship'
  4. Britain will not accept Brexit deal with Irish Sea border
  5. Slovakia seeks witness to journalist killing
  6. Finland's Stubb considers running for EU commission job
  7. Romania ponders anti same-sex marriage referendum
  8. EU lawyers back Slovenia in Croatia border dispute

Interview

New book: Why war is coming

War is the likely outcome of current geopolitical trends - the decline of democracy and rise of authoritarian nationalism - says Belgian writer Koert Debeuf in his new book 'Tribalisation', to be launched in New York this week.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  4. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  5. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  6. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  7. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  8. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  9. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  10. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  12. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want

Latest News

  1. Tensions mount over Kosovo-Serbia deal
  2. New book: Why war is coming
  3. EU parliament will not budge on office expenses
  4. Why Orban's project to reshape EU politics will be unsuccessful
  5. 10 years after Lehman Brothers what has changed for EU consumers?
  6. Sefcovic launches bid to be EU Commission president
  7. Is Russia blackmailing the Council of Europe?
  8. First containership goes north of Russia from Asia to Europe

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us