Cigré, the forum for electrical innovations

April 2012

Making the smart grid a reality with advanced communications solutions

The electricity supply system is currently undergoing a radical transformation into a smart grid that will enable bi-directional supply and communication between generators and consumers. Several factors are driving this transformation worldwide:

  • The widespread addition of intermittent renewables (e.g., wind and solar)   

400,000 new smart meters per year are projected to be installed across Europe

  • Consumers’ demand for greater control over their energy usage as well as access to time-of-use pricing and other services, which will drive the implementation of smart meters

In the United States, private sector deployment and government funding for smart grids is ongoing. In Europe, the smart grid roll-out is set to occur between 2014 and 2020 in order to meet the 20-20-20 Renewable Energy Directive. It is expected to deliver greater efficiency, reliability, automation, quality of supply and flexibility to adapt to supply and demand fluctuations.

This new system will require pervasive reach and broadband networks that can meet strict latency, security and reliability constraints. A range of advanced communication solutions are being developed and deployed using technologies such as satellite, wireless, wireline and power line communication. To select the optimal solution, a number of factors need to be considered, including: service cost-effectiveness, security and confidentiality, network architecture, performance objectives and practical deployment issues.

As the smart grid develops, communication access solutions for electricity consumers and producers will evolve, moving through the following five steps in a non-serial manner:

  • Automatic meter reading (AMR)
  • Automatic meter management (AMM/AMI), or smart metering
  • Remote centralised control (DR)
  • Distribution automation (DA)
  • Full smart grid (AMM/AMI + DR + DA + distributed generation + microgrid)

Many European governments and regulators are prioritising smart metering as a service delivery model. Data security and privacy are essential to the model’s success, and American, British and European organisations have already issued guidelines in these areas.
One of the keys to any smart metering project is the development of a wide area network (WAN) capable of efficiently interfacing with millions of customers in various geographic and network architecture contexts. Possible approaches including deploying a dedicated network, using an existing public/private network, or leveraging a combination of the two. In deciding which strategy to adopt, at least two major considerations need to be taken into account: first, the extent to which the public/private or dedicated network can meet WAN requirements; and second, which strategy will comply with regulatory and other government requirements.

Efficient interfacing is also important when providing communications access from a single entity to multiple entities. Regardless of the methodology chosen, each function (such as consumption measurement, data management and grid control) must transfer information and control data to one or more other functions. Where separate entities are involved, standard interfaces are required to ensure interconnectivity and interoperability. Given the probability of different countries adopting different models, international standardization of the various interfaces involved is key.
Another requirement for smart meters and the smart grid is spectrum access. As utility companies roll out the new system, public mobile and fixed networks’ demand for spectrum will rise. Many utilities are concerned that the additional spectrum required may be difficult or costly to acquire. To solve this problem, some utility trade associations are lobbying regulators for a smart grid spectrum allocation to improve co-ordination and reduce the cost of equipment and products.

Source: Working Group WGD2.29 “Communication Access to Electrical Energy Consumers and Producers”, led by CIGRE Study Committee D2 ‘Information Systems and Telecommunication’.



Electra - the CIGRE bimonthly journal for Power System professionals


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International Colloquium on "Power Quality and Lightning"

13/05/2012 - 16/05/2012

CIGRE Session 44

CIGRE Session 2012 (44th ed.)

26/08/2012 - 31/08/2012
Paris, Palais des Congrès

2012 CIGRE Canada conference: Technology and Innovation for the Evolving Power Grid

24/09/2012 - 26/09/2012
Montreal, Quebec

Contact details

Linda Huguet
Communications Manager
T. + 33 (0) 1 53 89 10 06

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