A series of meetings jointly organized by the CMU-Portugal and the MIT-Portugal Programs, together with the INOVGRID and the MOBI.e and Projects
The debate on smart energy grids is emerging worldwide and is attracting the attention of the industry, researchers and policy makers, from both operational and conceptual points of view.
Smart energy grids may have different meanings for different people. At the utility customers’ level, “smart grids” might mean meters that can read automatically, time-of-day and time-of-use meters, meters that communicate with customers or control of customers’ loads. At the level of the distribution system, “smart grids” might mean the automation of the distribution system, a selective load control, or managing distributed generation and “islanding”. For many, the concept is focused at the level of the transmission system, and smart grids might mean measurement of phase and other advanced measurements, FACTS and other advanced control devices or distributed and autonomous control (see Morgan et al., 2009 or Gellings, 2009 for more details on the various meanings of smart grids).
Over the course of the past two decades, issues of affordability of energy services, security of supply, environmental concerns (including climate change) have pushed Portugal to foster policies to increase the share of renewable energy in the electricity generation mix, promote energy efficiency, consider the electrification of part of the vehicle fleet, and move towards a “smart” electricity grid. Still, today Portugal imports 83% of its energy needs (Eurostat, 2009), has the 5th most expensive electricity retail price of the EU27 before taxes, moving to 9th when all taxes are included (Eurostat, 2009).
To address part of these issues, Portugal has recently formulated an ambitious national energy strategy for 2020 (Res.Cons. Ministros nº29/2010), which includes, amongst other strategic areas, the reduction of the energy dependence to 74% and an increase in the share electricity generated from renewable energy sources to 60%, both by 2020. The strategy also proposes to create economic clusters around the production of renewable energy and energy efficiency. These goals will require that Portugal rethinks its energy systems in several fronts, and provides a unique setting for Portugal to pioneer research in the “smart energy” area. This requires bringing together different energy sources and their grids in order to provide an energy service with the best economic, environmental and energy performance, enabling the “co-generations” and a transformation where each citizen becomes an active and informed actor of the energy system.
In a series of proposed workshops, called “Smart Energy Brainstorms” that will be pursued from June to December of 2010, the challenge of identifying key strategic research areas in the realm of smart energy grids where Portuguese research groups and companies may join efforts with leading partners worldwide and promote Portuguese pilot experiences of smart energy grids at a leading international level was proposed. These brainstorming sessions are proposed to be organized within the context of the CMU-Portugal and MIT-Portugal programs, in close collaboration with major public and private initiatives in Portugal in the area of smart energy grids, including the national effort on electric mobility through the MOBI.e project, as well as the INOVGRID project promoted by the energy company EDP in the city of Évora. Other potential initiatives are welcome to join the brainstorms and research projects as those are developed.
Accordingly, the goal of such brainstorms is to have participants discussing the following issues:
• What are smart-grids and what are their implications for deployment? What are current efforts to deploy pilot and large-scale projects in the smart grids area?
• What are key technological, regulatory, economic and environmental issues related to the deployment of smart grids? How far US and EU contexts imply different implementation procedures?
• How do the different smart grid designs relate to consumer behavior?
• What are the main characteristics to exploit in the Portuguese pilot studies to make them unique? What are key research areas to pursue? How to build on the existing research?
The first “smart energy brainstorm” had a wide variety of participants, including a mix of world-wide university power systems academics, industry leaders and key innovation and many non-utility companies leading the change. The full list of participants and their short bios can be found here.