The transmission and distribution of electricity has to gear up to meet new challenges: a soaring world population and increasing pollution mean electricity will have to be delivered to more people and more efficiently as well.
According the International Energy Agency (IEA) by 2040 global energy needs will have risen by 30%.
New technologies are being integrated into the electricity grid to help ensure these targets can be met. Smart grids and distributed energy resources, such as the solar panels on our roofs, are progressively being introduced as they will ensure a more efficient way of getting electricity to end users. But introducing them poses a number of challenges, not least concerning their integration with existing transmission assets.
And that is where IEC International Standards come in. A wide number of IEC Standards have been prepared to facilitate the interoperability and the integration of these new technologies with the conventional network.
Grids are getting smart
The European Technology Platform SmartGrids, a European Commission initiative which focuses on research into the technology, has come up with one of the most widely accepted definitions for smart grids: “electricity networks that can intelligently integrate the actions of all users connected to it – generators and consumers and those that do both – in order to efficiently deliver sustainable, economic and secure electricity supplies. Smart grids employ innovative products and services together with intelligent monitoring, control, communication and self-healing technologies”.
Key technologies behind a smart grid are sensors that measure the relevant parameters such as temperatures, voltage and current; communications that allow a two way dialogue with a device; control systems that enable a device to be reconfigured remotely; and user-interface and decision support systems that provide an overview of asset status and perform advanced analytics on data to provide information.
These smart grid technologies have been trialled extensively and are gradually being deployed around the world.
Integration is paramount
One of the Standards defining the communication and control interfaces of all distributed energy resources with the conventional grid is IEC 61850-7-420, published by IEC Technical Committee (TC) 57: Power systems management and associated information exchange.
This Standard is part of the IEC 61850 series which comprise the core publications applicable to the implementation and interoperability of smart grids. They include IEC 61850-6, which deals with communication in substations relating to intelligent electronic devices and IEC 61850-4, which applies to substation automation systems, for example. Digital substations are one of the constituent parts of smart grids. They require fewer cables and take up less space than conventional substations. They are also easier to maintain due to their standardized interface.
The IEC has published a wide number of Standards which help to improve the energy efficiency of existing assets, whether through the use of high efficiency transformers or more efficient overhead conductors etc.
Read the new IEC brochure on transmission and distribution for details about how the IEC is finding solutions for our energy challenges.