Friday

19th Jul 2019

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.

Analysis

What did we learn from the von der Leyen vote?

The vote on von der Leyen showed the fundamental change in EU politics. The rise of the European Parliament, the power of political parties, and the fragmentation of politics, are new realities to be taken into account.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Timmermans: von der Leyen will be tough on rule of law
  2. Timmermans trolls 'idiot' Brexit negotiators
  3. Rudderless Europe: Will real Germany please stand up?
  4. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory
  5. Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts
  6. EU proposes yearly rule of law 'reports'
  7. Poland 'optimistic' despite new EU law checks
  8. What did we learn from the von der Leyen vote?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us