Clarifying Europe’s smart grid state of play

I wrote an analysis piece on smart grid technology in Information Age magazine this month, in which I unfavorably compared the commitment to technology among European commercial and political organisations to President Obama’s smart grid provision in his recent economic stimulus package.

Reader Tom Bradley, a project engineer at New and Renewable Energy Centre Ltd (NaREC), has been in touch to clarify the extent to which European organisations have already committed to smart grids, and how European eco-efficiency drives have effectively mandated the adoption of the technology, albeit without explicitly using the term.

I’m happy to put his comments up here on the blog to set the record straight.

“As far as utilities go, EDF are basically involved in every smart grid project going, so their commitment is pretty large” Bradley writes.

“Additionally they are involved in the London ESCo project which means to decentralise the London energy grid in a similar way to Woking in Surrey. Since Woking achieved an 81% CO2 reduction in emissions from the city centre, this seems good news. Although ESCos are not explicitly part of smart grids, the fact EDF are involved in a virtual power plant trial via Fenix in Woking suggests where they intend to be heading. E.ON also are involved in several projects”

“But to be honest, it doesn't matter if network operators would like to commit to smart grids or not,” he adds. “With the levels of distributed generation increasing, in order to continue running the electricity networks with acceptable power quality, they have to. This is nothing to do with choice, it is a necessity.”

“Look at the 2020 emission targets in Europe of 20% renewable energy. For the UK to achieve its contribution, 34% of all electricity must come from renewable [energy sources].”

“The level of unpredictable renewables in such a system will force the smart grid upon us. Thus, through the 2020 20% commitments, the EU have effectively forced smart grid on themselves, without explicitly stating it in law.”

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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