Increasing electricity demand around the world presents numerous challenges in terms of electricity generation and its effective distribution through the electricity grid infrastructure. The impacts of this growing demand are observed at an environmental level and an economic level, but also at the service level as ageing infrastructure and distribution systems struggle to meet this demand.
Smart grids are being proposed as a means to address power generation, distribution and utilisation challenges through the development of technologies for intelligent sensing and power management, secure communications and system modelling to deliver a reliable, efficient and secure power supply.
Integrating smart metering and power utilisation at the user level also has significant potential in reducing overall electricity usage as well as providing critical information for the management of base load power generation and mitigation of system failures throughout the grid.
Key objectives of smart grids include:
- Efficiency: meeting increasing and variable demand, delivering cost savings through more effective utilisation of existing (and new) infrastructure.
- Intelligence: sensing demand variations at local and regional scales, enabling accurate modelling of usage patterns and deployment of resources.
- Reliability: anticipating and responding to demand fluctuations in a way that avoids system overloads and power failures.
- Security: grid infrastructure that is resistant to attack and natural disasters through a distributed operations framework and advanced security mechanisms for communications and operations.
- Environment: seeking to reduce the impact of power generation through more efficient power utilisation mechanisms and integrating emerging power generation means.
- Affordability: flexibility for consumers in usage and billing through innovative power management, as well as more efficient infrastructure management across the grid.
The expertise and resources within the University of Melbourne’s Electrical and Electronic Engineering Faculty and ARC Research Networks on Intelligent Sensors, Sensor Networks and Information Processing group (ISSNIP) offer a strong platform to begin addressing the many challenges associated with understanding, modeling and implementing smart grid infrastructure.
Demand Response in Smart Grids
The project will formulate a system that actively engages the consumer in the power supply equation, by providing a mechanism that gives the consumer greater input into the type of service provided by power distributors. The results of this project will have the potential to transform the energy distribution industry.
By cutting energy usage during demand peaks and keeping the demand curve as flat as possible, the utility can keep the grid more energy-efficient and avoid spending on additional infrastructure. While the utility cannot make sure the customers use only high-efficiency appliances, the utility can motivate the customers to change their consumption behaviour via demand response (DR). DR is a program established to motivate changes in electric use by end-use customers to help the grid better cope with demand. DR programs are either incentive-based or price-based.
DR is enabled by the Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI). The AMI enables two-way communication between the utility’s enterprise network and the smart meters. Electricity tariffs are provided to the customers via their smart meter (which actually belongs to the utility), and can be conveniently displayed on their in-home display.
Upstream, the AMI is connected to the utility’s enterprise network via a backhaul network. Multiple AMI vendors designate the types of networks that constitute the AMI as the Neighborhood Area Network (NAN) and the Field Area Network (FAN). In the NAN, nodes called collectors collect meter data from the smart meters and forward the data towards the backhaul network. The FAN is for connecting field devices to the utility’s SCADA master.
Downstream, the AMI is connected to the customer networks via the smart meters. The customer network in a home is called a Home Area Network (HAN). The Building Area Network (BAN) and the Industrial Area Network (IAN) are the equivalents of the HAN for buildings and industrial facilities respectively. There are a variety of standards for connecting HAN devices (e.g. in-home displays, programmable communicating thermostats) to a smart meter, e.g. Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, RDS, and FlexNet. In Australia, ZigBee Smart Energy Profile has been chosen as the HAN standard. Nevertheless, devices implementing different standards may interoperate via the U-SNAP serial interface.
For more information please contact the ARC Research Networks on Intelligent Sensors Sensor Networks and Information Convener Prof Marimuthu Palaniswami.