Smart Grid, Smart Metering and the EV – Electrification of Heat and Transport
A Smart Grid is an idea of an electrical network with power generators, energy consuming devices and distribution networks are interconnected via communication and smart processing technologies. This system might enable more distributed power generators such as CHP, wind turbines, micro renewable (domestic wind turbines and photovoltaic systems) which could reduce electrical distribution loses and improve overall energy efficiency. Intelligent Heat Pumps and Electric Cars communicating with the grid could be charged over night (or day) at the cheapest and cleanest (lowest CO2) points in time depending on a Customer’s preferences while providing the same level of service. Similarly intelligent fridges and washing machines could be scheduled to balance power requirements for the grid operator reducing the amount of reserve which must be maintained.
Switching on and off Consumers loads, particularly over night time and peak periods can potential reduces the risks and costs for the electrical system operator while increasing the opportunities for the Consumer all the time. A Smart Grid could also respond rapidly to emergencies (such as a power station failure) by reducing non-essential electrical loads in sequence to prevent the entire network from collapsing.
This will require the development of intelligent, fast acting and commercially viable communication technologies. The Smart Meter is a device which presents a start down that road. The Smart Meter allows very accurate knowledge of an electricity consumer’s true consumption. This largely is still guessed by the electricity supplier and correct twice or more times a year when the meter is read manually. A Smart Meter allows this data to be read accurately and reliably remotely. This allows much potentially allows greater freedom in choice of Tariff for the Consumer and importantly may also allow the Consumer one day to know his/her exact carbon foot print from electricity consumption.
Fig 5 below presents a view of a domestic smart home area network showing the balancing of wind/ocean/solar with the reserve power available to the home owner in the form of electricity, kerosene (or gas) for the home heating system, petrol or diesel for the vehicle. The smart home of the future enabled through a smart grid in Ireland may store thermal energy from a heat pump (and/or hot water) and the battery of the EV.
It is likely that future models of EVs will be available which can also return energy to the grid. However, each time this happens, the battery life may be affected, in particular with the current generation of batteries. By offering the battery to be used to provide electricity for re-sale to the grid, the cost of the service would need to be higher than the cost to the life of the battery. The view at present is the battery cost together with the additional charging equipment remains too high to facilitate this process but as technology improves and prices reduce, this may one day become a viable option.
Ireland has sufficient Wind/Ocean accessible renewable energy resource to supply 2.8 times its current electricity requirement. Electrifying our energy requirement is therefore an obvious route for Ireland to go. By employing highly efficient heat pumps and electric vehicles, Ireland primary energy requirement may be reduced while at the same time providing a larger market for all of our surplus renewable energy to be used and stored.