Smart grid: all you need to know

What is a smart grid? With connected devices’ spread, this evolution in electricity network monitoring is experiencing explosive growth. We explain why.



March 10, 2022


Table of contents

Smart grids or smart electricity grids? Whatever you call them, they are definitely one of the best ways to optimize our electricity consumption today. However, we are not talking about magic here. This performance is the result of the digital and technological revolution we experienced these last decades. More specifically : the boom of connected devices we experienced these last decades. In this context, smart grids may be destined to experience the same fate, as they are now developed all around the world. In fact, they may be the future of traditional electricity grids. But what are smart electricity grids ? Why should we all use them? What kind of benefits do smart grids bring? Greenly explains.

📖 Smart grid : what is this?

Smart grid : definition 🎓 

What is exactly a smart grid? Well, it is quite simple - although it is really smart. 😎 A “smart grid” is an electrical network that integrates new information and communication technologies (ICT), such as connected devices. In this context, we also often talk about “smart electricity grid”.

Shortly, a smart grid transmits real-time information on electricity usage and consumption to all network operators (producers, distributors and consumers). The idea is simple: to use this real-time information to adjust electricity flows and ensure better energy efficiency.

In more technical language, a smart grid is what we call an “IOT-enabled application”. This means that a smart grid allows utilities and customers to exchange electricity and information. That’s why we talk about a “smart” grid : in fact, it is a two-way data flow, useful for both sides of it.

Smart grid technology mainly includes sensors, wireless modules, monitoring systems, and robust ICT infrastructures.

What is IoT? As a reminder, the internet of things (also called IoT) is a system of interrelated computing, mechanical and digital devices that are provided with unique identifiers (UIDs) and transfer data over a network, without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.

How does it work? ❓ 

Unlike traditional energy grids ― dealing with one-way distribution, from producer to consumer ― smart grids use the IoT technology to create a new model, based on monitoring and intelligence. To make it, two dimensions are required: energy and data.

Thanks to the real-time sharing of data, it is now possible to know when and how electricity is used. Then IoT devices and technologies allow power grids to communicate together to balance supply and demand, and avoid a network overload. Electricity supply becomes more secure.

Traditional electricity networks: what’s the difference? Traditional electricity grids don’t have storage capabilities. They are demand-driven only, and their functioning is based on a hierarchical structure.

😍 Why should we use smart grids?

To ensure a good balance between supply and demand 👌

We just said it : one of the biggest advantages of smart grids is that they ensure a good balance between supply and demand. Why is this important? Because electricity is very hard to store. To make it simple, when we need electricity, energy producers must immediately inject the amount of energy needed into the grid. Otherwise, the network overheats. Consequently, maintaining a balance between supply and demand is crucial, in order to preserve the functioning of the system.

To answer growing electrical needs ⚡

Optimizing energy consumption is now essential. The reason for this is simple : electricity needs are constantly increasing. In fact, it seems logical: after all, we have never used more appliances requiring electricity. 

Air conditioning, electric heating, audio and video devices, electric cars… The list is quite long. And this is where smart grids become useful. Indeed, real-time data sharing about energy traffic enable suppliers to control and answer this growing demand.

To support energy transition 💫

The development of photovoltaic energy is slowed down, because these renewable energies are subject to weather hazards. As a result, their production remains intermittent. When peaks of energy consumption occur, renewable energy is not always sufficient to meet consumers' needs.

In this context, using a smart grid is a good way to efficiently support energy transition. Thanks to it, you get a great overview of supply and demand, but also a useful tool to manage your consumption.

🎁 3 benefits of smart grids 

1. Manage your electricity consumption 💪

First, you get a better knowledge of your electricity consumption. As you can identify the different ways you consume energy, you can also identify the main points on which you should focus, in order to lower your consumption

Using smart grids allow consumers to better control their energy spending. For example, they become able to avoid peak consumption hours to use or recharge their devices. As a result, their bills’ amount drastically decrease.

One more thing ? Smart grids also support the decentralization of electricity production. Thanks to the spread of photovoltaic panels, more and more consumers can now produce their own electricity, which is directly injected into the grid of their home. A huge advantage, especially when you have an electric car in your garage.

2. Elaborate or benefit from customized electricity offers 💳

There are also many advantages for energy suppliers. In fact, if they benefit from a greater knowledge of the specific usages of their customers, they become able to offer them more specific propositions too. A set of offers perfectly tailored to their customers' needs and budget !

In this context, smart grids are now emerging as a real competitive advantage, likely to enable energy suppliers to optimize their commercial offers, in line with the information obtained by real-time information systems. 

One way, one again, to adjust electricity production, with the aim of tackling waste and reducing the impact of this activity on the environment.

To figure out all these theoretical statements, maybe we should give you some figures : in 2020, the total U.S. electricity generation reached 4.01 trillion kilowatt hours (kWh). All types of renewable energies together. Hold on to your seats: these production resulted in the emission of 1.55 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). 😱

3. Ensure secure electricity supply ✅

Smart grids are a powerful management tool. What does this mean? For energy providers, this real-time flow of information is also a way to detect any potential system-wide problems

In practical terms, thanks to embedded technologies, network managers can easily detect and locate failures, such as surges, outages, or technical energy losses. They can perform maintenance, relief and remote driving operations, in order to ensure the proper functioning of the electricity system. 

By the way, they also know in real-time when, where and how to distribute the right amount of electricity. More than an optimization tool - regarding operational costs and reliability - smart grids are also a security tool, enabling energy providers to avoid any potential overheating of their system.

💥 9 tips to save electricity as a company

As a company, reducing its electricity consumption is more than important. First, to make some substantial savings on its energy bill. But also to contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, decreasing your electricity consumption is one of the easiest ways to fight against global warming. How? We give you 10 tips to succeed.

1. Turn off interior lights when they are useless 🔦

We know: it seems obvious. But many companies and stores do not apply this rule. Do not follow their example and remember to turn off lights, if they are not necessary. Except for particular cases, we can bet no one is working in your office at night. Same during weekends or any closed period.


2. Reduce outdoor lighting 💫

Late at night, the outside lights are certainly no longer necessary either. Especially concerning screen advertising. In this context, you can reasonably consider that this energy consumption becomes useless around one o'clock in the morning.

If ― for some reason ― you can’t cut back on this energy expenditure, perhaps you can, on the other hand, favor energy-saving light bulbs for this type of lighting?

3. Optimize your computers’ usage 📇

They are relatively small and appear innocuous... Yet, they are surely one of the most important sources of electricity consumption within a company: we are obviously talking about computers. The good news is that it is very easy to optimize this source of consumption, by adopting some good practices: turn off the screens completely at night, prefer laptops which consume 50 to 80% less than a fixed computer, and restrict the number of printers by choosing fewer multifunctional devices.

4. Be conscious with emails’ impact 📩

The dematerialisation of our communication media sometimes leads us to underestimate the impact that the new means of communication also have on the environment. Warning: emails are particularly energy-consuming. In this context, avoid sending too heavy attachments, for example. You can also try to limit the number of recipients. In the same way, do not store too many messages and clean your mailbox regularly. 

5. Adapt the average heating temperature 🔥

Especially in tertiary establishments. Beware of heating: again, this is one of the easiest electricity expenditures to control. The rules are simple: do not heat rooms where no one is and do not overheat those where you are. 

As a reminder, here are the recommended temperatures: 19 °C for occupied rooms, 16 °C out of occupancy period, and 8 °C if your premises are unoccupied for more than two days.

Beyond simply reducing your electricity consumption, please note that an overheated room does not encourage employees’ productivity. 😇

6. Maintain your heat pump or reversible air conditioning 🌀

Even if this seems to make sense, it is better to remember: poorly maintained equipment is synonymous with malfunction and ― potentially ― over-consumption of energy. So, just remember to follow up on your facilities as often as necessary. 

Warning: as a company, the inspection of these installations is also a legal obligation.

7. Always close store doors 🚪

If you are a merchant, be sure to keep your store doors closed. Especially when using heating or air conditioning! It causes considerable expenditure of energy to heat or to cool the outside atmosphere. 😬

By the way, it also causes considerable expenses. Just keeping store doors closed will allow you to both decrease your carbon footprint and save money. Not that bad, isn’t it?

8. Equip your fresh shelves with refrigerated doors 💨

Notice to supermarket or hypermarket managers: consider equipping your fresh shelves with refrigerated doors. They preserve the cold and prevent it from unnecessarily spreading in the surrounding ― and not refrigerated ― shelves. In the long term, this spending will mean valuable financial and energy savings.

9. Do not buy useless material 👌

Most of the time, any audiovisual material is synonymous with additional electricity consumption. There is no need to finance a batch of 15 projectors, if you use them occasionally. Similarly, do not fund the installation of advertising screens in your company’s hall, if they are not really useful. 

If you are hosting an event and need audiovisual equipment, prefer renting. Once again : saving electricity often implies financial savings. Don’t miss this opportunity! 

You want to learn more about new tools allowing people and companies to measure their carbon footprint? You are interested in reducing your greenhouse gas emissions and contributing to the fight against global warming? Our dream team is waiting for your call

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Arnaud Delubac

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