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The Theme - the New Energy Workshop

(The Smart Grid, the US Department of Energy)

"Powering Our Future - The Coming Energy Revolution"






"Energy is a basic human need and makes the world go round. Without energy, everything would come to a standstill. It is indispensable to foster human development and economic growth with a secure, affordable, reliable, clean and sustainable energy supply. Today we are facing huge challenges: global warming, depleting natural resources, population growth, increasing energy demand, rising energy prices and unequal distribution of energy sources. All of these factors contribute to the urgent need to transform the energy sector, which primarily relies on fossil fuels, to one that uses renewable energies and energy efficient technologies." - International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)

We live in a world of cyberspace, biomedical engineering and other mind-boggling technologies. Yet when it comes to energy, our decades-old coal- and oil-based energy systems barely change. Developments around the world are already proving them wrong. However, we may soon witness the most dramatic changes in the world energy economy in a hundred years. Governments worldwide are encouraging the development of renewable sources of electrical energy. Many of these governments are taking measures to reduce the use of fossil fuels for transportation and heating and are thus likely to increase the proportion of energy that is consumed in electrical form. The world will need greatly increased energy supply in the next 20 years, especially cleanly-generated electricity. "Electricity demand is increasing twice as fast as overall energy use." - (World Nuclear Association)

Renewables vs. Nuclear

There are two different ways of reducing the fossil fuel consumption - either using renewable energy sources or using nuclear power. However, renewable energy sources like solar and wind power are environmental friendly but inefficient in electrical power generation. Nuclear power is very efficient (a reliable 'base load' supply of electricity) but contains the fear of radiation pollution. All these factors have led to different R&D efforts to use distributed generation systems to form micro-grids and a large level penetration of renewable energy sources. In many countries renewables are starting to overtake fossil fuels as the primary power source. But one of the biggest problems with renewables has yet to be solved: what happens if it's cloudy? More specifically, the problem is that renewable energy sources can never provide a constant source of power. 

Creating the Energy Internet

The world’s electric power utilities are facing their most serious crisis since their inception a century ago. Aging infrastructure, increasing peak demand for electricity and raising concerns for the industry’s environmental impacts have made it crucially important to improve how the power grid manages electricity. The open, standards-based smart grid, the power grid of the future (Energy Internet), is one of humanity's boldest visions. It turns the current electrical network that has thousands of transmission substations, large substations for distribution, and public and private owners into a shared, interoperable network that communicates intelligently and works efficiently, similar in concept to the way the Internet works today. Smart grids differ from our current grid because they allow two-way power transmission and communication where the current grid is limited to one direction. This two-way transmission and communication allows for additional grid functions, controls, reliability, and efficiency. 

Smart Grid Technologies

"Smart grid” generally refers to a class of technology people are using to bring utility electricity delivery systems into the 21st century, using computer-based remote control and automation. These systems are made possible by two-way communication technology and computer processing that has been used for decades in other industries. They are beginning to be used on electricity networks, from the power plants and wind farms all the way to the consumers of electricity in homes and businesses. The major technologies used in the smart grid infrastructure are advanced metering infrastructure, cyber security, distribution automation, software and hardware, transmission upgrades, and communication technologies. Of these, transmission upgrades technology is the leading segment. The development of smart grid for upgrading transmission system is mainly driven by automation in substation infrastructure, advancements in distribution transformers, and improvements in electric energy conversion chain. Smart grid technologies will enable energy conservation, increased operational efficiencies and a more resilient mix of energy sources at a reasonable cost while maintaining the reliability of the electricity supply at the level to which we have grown accustomed. 

The introduction of smart grid has significantly transformed transmission and distribution system in electrical grid. Smart grid has been constantly instrumental in increasing the operational efficiencies of utility providers, reduce transmission and distribution losses, and improve interoperability of various components involved in the managing of an electric grid. The advent of distributed generation of energy and the increasing deployment on renewable power generation have boosted the smart grid market. As a still-emerging technology to drive the next generation of power grids, the smart grid concept is finding increasing levels of support from governments worldwide as a way of addressing energy independence, climate change and resilience to emergencies. 

Smart Grid Communication Networks

The smart grid will use digital sensors, advanced communication networks and sophisticated analytics to help utilities understand demand in near real time, more effectively manage supply and demand, and put greater control of energy usage into the hands of consumers. It will use new long-distance, extra-high voltage transmission lines (a national “electric superhighway”) to deliver the bulk of clean power generated by the remote gigantic wind farms on land and offshore, and the enormous solar fields in the deserts and the areas that have an abundance of sun in the years to come. Consumers and companies are installing solar panels and small wind turbines on their roofs or small power plants in their basements. The highly efficient mini power plants (co-generation) provide heat and electricity and also feed back any excess power to the smart grid, providing a profit to the user. Two-way connected standards-based smart meters will be installed in every home. They will be able to measure real-time electricity distribution both inside households and in the power grid. Smart meters use broadband wireless networking (e.g., Wi-Fi, LTE) to exchange information (measurement data, command signals, and status updates) back and forth between utilities and customers. They are paving the way for tools and services that make the system more responsive to shifts in energy demands. The backbone of the system is a communication infrastructure that ensures secure, reliable and low-latency transmission of data across the whole power grid. Of course, the concept that ties all of this together - the Internet of Things (IoT).

Distributed Power Generation

(The 1st Nuclear Chain Reaction, the UChicago, Alvin Wei-Cheng Wong)

Power supplies are likely to be radically decentralized (distributed generation) in the coming decades. Distributed generation systems make their power at the point of consumption, and usually include using multiple energy sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal. Creating the energy on-site cuts costs and inefficiencies related to transmission and distribution. In addition, the co-location of solar and wind provides more continuous energy generation than having either technology working alone. Co-locating wind and solar plants can save money on grid connections, site development, and approvals. Wind energy offers the cheapest option for new energy construction currently available in the U.S., while solar energy can be more expensive to develop and install. Combining solar and wind can help cut battery costs as well. Adding wind can help cut battery costs, since the wind can (and often does) blow when the sun doesn’t shine. If you’re in a location where the wind does blow, and especially where the wind complements solar, until the batteries get cheaper than the wind power itself, you’re going to be better off adding wind [than batteries]. Perhaps one day, grid storage batteries will be so cheap that their cost will be no concern. Until that day, combining wind and solar resources may often create the most amount of electricity for the least amount of money.

Integrated Smart Micro-Grids

The smart grid will be a network of integrated smart micro-grids: geographically compact units (small-scale, localized electricity systems, they can be independent of the grid or connected to the grid) capable of running autonomously from the main grid. Each micro-grid will be capable of load side management, peak-shaving, power conservation and integration of local renewable energy generation (market-based power system generation scheduling process). Virtual power plants rely on software and the smart grid, working remotely and automatically to combine a diversity of independent resources into a network. Virtual power plants use sophisticated planning, scheduling, and bidding of distributed energy resources. They can stitch together different energy resources from different locations and aggregate them to provide reliable power 24 hours a day. A virtual power plant can only be created if there is a market to sell its power and services to. It’s highly dependent on regulations. A micro-grid, on the other hand, can be created anywhere, and isn’t as dependent on market structures. And it can island from the main grid, while virtual power plants can’t. However, once a micro-grid starts to sell its services—such as demand response—it becomes a virtual power plant.

A (futuristic design concept) network of thousands (or millions) of decentralized mini power plants (micro-grids and virtual power plants) -- comprised of diesel generation systems, solar PV generations units, wind turbine systems, fuel cell based power generation systems etc. -- will be able to quickly pool resources to produce mass quantities of energy to compensate for fluctuations in other supplies, like wind power if the wind dies down. The multiple dispersed generation sources and ability to isolate the micro grid from a larger network would provide highly reliable electric power. Microgrid will operate as a backup option during storms, cyber attacks and other catastrophic disruptions. All the power generation units are interfaced using different power electronic converters at different stages to efficiently distribute the total generated power in the overall grid. If there is some localized fault in one of the parts of the micro-grid, that part of distribution or transmission line can be isolated and still the power supply to the rest of the micro-grid can be maintained. The sources of a virtual power plant are often a cluster of distributed generation systems, and are often orchestrated by a central authority.

Energy Storage Technologies

Batteries, really energy storage - the next disruptive technology in the power sector, are fundamentally necessary. Energy storage can be deployed both on the grid and at an individual consumer’s home or business. A complex technology, its economics are shaped by customer type, location, grid needs, regulations, customer load shape, rate structure, and nature of the application.  Low-cost energy storage could transform the power landscape. The implications are profound. At today’s lower prices, energy storage is starting to play a broader role in energy markets, moving from niche uses such as grid balancing to broader ones such as replacing conventional power generators for reliability, providing power-quality services, and supporting renewables integration.

Energy storage devices (e.g., lithium-ion battery) will be deployed in electric vehicles (EVs) in the future. It will enable electric vehicles to download energy from a plug when plenty is available. And if an electric vehicle isn't in operation and there is a shortage of energy, the electric vehicles will also be capable of feeding electricity back into the smart grid. The smart grid without energy storage is like a computer without a hard drive: severely limited. Energy stored throughout the grid can provide power to address peak power needs, decreasing the use of expensive plants that utilities power up as a last resort when demand spikes, making the network less volatile. In the way that computers and the infrastructure of the Internet have built up around storage as a key component, so will the power grid eventually rely on big data and on-grid energy storage technology (wide-area energy storage and management system) as a pivotal piece. Energy storage technologies (e.g., power-to-gas, high-density rechargeable batteries, compressed air, pumped hydro, molten-salt technology, lithium-ion batteries, fuel cells, etc.) can strengthen grid stability, reduce frequency and duration of operational disruptions, and increase efficiencies. At present, most utilities favour battery energy storage systems (BESSs) as these are easily scalable and can be located almost anywhere. Energy storage will be the key to deploying high penetrations of renewable energy around the globe.

Smart Energy Meters in Intelligent Energy Networks

More intelligent energy consumption will help to compensate for fluctuations in the power grid. Smart meter is one of the most important devices used in the smart grid. The smart meter is an advanced energy meter that obtains information from the end users' load devices and measures the energy consumption of the consumers and then provides added information to the utility company and/or system operator. Smart meters enable two-way communication between the meter and the central system. Smart meters will pave the way for real-time pricing, where energy is priced at different rates depending on the time of day and how much demand there is for the electricity. Utilities can use real-time pricing to better manage the loads on the grid, while home owners can use it to cut their monthly energy bills. For example, intelligent appliances are saving energy in our homes: washers, dryers and refrigerators that communicate with each other wash, dry or cool when electricity is cheapest. The dream of a smart grid, where every household appliance is networked (i.e., home area network) and able to communicate with the power grid, and consumers can do things like adjusting their thermostats using a mobile phone, rests on universal Internet connectivity. Decentralized energy-producing units and household appliances would be organized by a central energy management system in each home (Intelligent Green Building).

The New Electricity Age

Electricity is becoming more and more important for the development of a secure and sustainable energy system. Digital network intelligence is added to the power grid of the future, making electricity more like the Internet. In order to keep the network -- comprised of thousands (or millions) of mini power plants stable -- from collapsing, millions of end-appliances and home management systems will constantly be able to share data or commands. The power grid itself will also be equipped with advanced information technology (i.e., wireless sensor networking technology, AI/machine learning, software, computing) that will be able to measure demand and production in real time. The deployment of all modern energy technologies will rise or fall based on the construction of a communications network that can deal with mass amounts of real-time data and transport them using Internet Protocols. The smart grid is the backbone of the new infrastructure. The smart grid could promote innovation in energy, just as the Internet did in computing. The Information Age is arriving at a new level: It's becoming the New Electricity Age.

Cybersecurity for Critical Energy Infrastructure

As electric power plants and other critical infrastructure facilities' increasingly rely on Internet-connected technologies and wireless communications, hackers appear to be uncovering new avenues to penetrate their networks. The grid is extremely vulnerable to cyber and physical attacks. It is a growing threat to small and large power operators alike. We need to develop methods to help utilities detect and recover from cyberattacks. If utilities can quickly detect digital attacks, it has a better chance of preventing physical damage from occurring. However, attackers continue to evolve their tools and techniques to defeat the protection controls that are put in place. IoT across the power grid creates new openings for hackers. The industry has to evolve to meet those new threats and defend against them. While the governments and the utility industry worldwide are clearly pouring more resources into the security of critical infrastructure facilities, the industry may need to move faster to defend against cyberthreats. The goal is to develop automated defense systems that operate independently of utilities to identify an attack, isolate vulnerable equipment and quickly get the system running again.

Big Data, AI and IoT for Energy Management

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making its way into all types of industries, including the energy sector, with significant growth in the use of AI to leverage big data and draw inference from very large data sets. AI is the application of machine learning for the purposes of automation and computational support of decision-making in a complex system. AI has great potential to coordinate and optimize the use of distributed energy resources, electric vehicles, and IoT. Use of AI aligns well with the current pace of change that utilities, regulators and customers expect with improvements to common utility operations including: reliability (e.g., self-healing grids, operations improvement and efficient use of renewable resources and energy storage); safety (e.g., outage prediction and outage response); cybersecurity of systems (e.g., threat detection and response); optimization (e.g., asset, maintenance, workflow and portfolio management); and enhancements for the customer experience (e.g., faster and more intuitive interactive voice response, personalization, product and service matching); etc..

In the next few years the use of energy storage and IoT is expected to increase significantly, along with an increased development of distributed energy resources with two-way power flow in the distribution grid, and new roles for energy service suppliers, utilities and consumers that produce energy, or prosumers. This evolution of the grid has been called the “Energy Cloud,” and the use of AI can be considered critical to the management of such a system, given the number of points of control in the grid increasing from many tens of thousands to hundreds of millions, or even billions. Compared to now, where AI is a tool being explored for optimization opportunities, in the future, it will be a requirement for effective grid participation.


Modern society is dependent on a reliable, abundant supply of energy. As our populations and cities get bigger, that demand is only set to grow. Ultimately we need smart grid technology because as the population grows the demand for electricity will only increase, but we need to cut our electricity consumption to fight global warming. The world consumes 14 trillion watts (14 terawatts) of energy every day. In another 50 years, we’re going to need 28 terawatts. Where are we going to find another 14? We would have to turn on a new 1,000-megawatt power plant tomorrow, another the next day, and on and on, one a day for the next 40 years to get another 14 terawatts. Undoubtedly, new sources of power generation will be needed to meet skyrocketing world energy demand. We will need a scalable, innovative, and clean energy portfolio that meets the world’s need for reliable energy sources while considering the economic, environmental, health and climate effects of energy generation. In the mean time, the smart grid will be implemented incrementally over the next two decades as technology, pricing, policy, and regulation changes.

In this workshop we will focus on understanding of the control, production, transmission and consumption of electrical energy by developing models, devices and software for faster and more accurate analysis, and the major communication protocols currently used within the smart grid. The workshop will also address Energy Internet, smart grid and smart grid security, CCUS (Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage), heat energy harvesting technology, and the energy systems that tap into inexhaustible, ubiquitous, and clean sources of energy generation, such as solar, wind (NOTE: the wind and solar forecast errors may significantly impact the power system generation scheduling process), biomass (i.e., plant matter such as trees, grasses, agricultural residue, algae, and other biological material), ocean (i.e., wave energy, tidal energy, ocean thermal energy conversion), and geothermal, but also including non-conventional avenues such as methane clathrate, radiant energy, cold nuclear fusion, magnet motors, etc. and their integration within the modern electrical grid and community - from ultra-high-voltage transmission systems to medium- and low-voltage distribution grids.


(last updated by hhw: 9/6/17)


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