The International Smart Grid Action Network (ISGAN) recognizes that smarter, cleaner electric grids are vital for maintaining a reliable, resilient, and secure electricity infrastructure that can meet future demand growth, respond to a growing range of customer power needs, and integrate increasingly diverse energy sources. Smart grids are a key enabler for applying most low-carbon energy technologies, including renewables and demand management measures, and can contribute to gigatonne-scale reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation and use.
The International Energy Agency estimated in Energy Technology Perspectives 2010 that the global deployment of smart grids can help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 0.9–2.2 gigatonnes annually by 2050, equivalent to the annual emissions of 300–730 mid-sized power plants.
Through its activities and cooperative ties with other grid modernization efforts, ISGAN engages governments and key stakeholders to achieve that potential. By working together, governments can identify common interests and opportunities for cooperation despite the diversity of power sector policy and technology ecosystems globally and persistent differences in national smart grid definitions and approaches. ISGAN’s efforts provide stakeholders with access to valuable lessons learned and best practices from around the world.
Governments can enable the widespread deployment and acceptance of the smart grid by pursuing a variety of smart and complementary activities within five identified areas of emphasis:
- Policy, Standards, and Regulation: Effective policies, regulation, and institutions are as critical as technology integration for the development and deployment of smart grid solutions. To inform better policymaking at the national, subnational, and local levels, governments might share information on policy-regulatory lessons learned, support replication of proven frameworks, and broker dialogue among the many levels of grid governance.
- Finance and Business Models: As new generation and end use technologies are integrated into electricity networks, standard utility business models and financing mechanisms are being increasingly proven inadequate for the task. Governments can share knowledge and experiences on novel public- and private-sector models to support deployment of smart grid systems and identify benefit-cost tool kits that can be adapted for use across multiple markets.
- Technology and Systems Development: Cooperative research, development, and demonstration of precompetitive smart grid technologies using consistent methodologies and testing protocols will advance the state-of-the-art of the industry and allow for more rapid integration of smart grid solutions. Initial opportunities include cataloging existing research and coordinating priority testing activities through networks of research/testing facilities.
- User and Consumer Engagement: The full benefits offered by smarter grids will be achievable only with the involvement of stakeholders along the full spectrum of the electricity system, from power generation through power transmission and distribution, and ultimately to end-use consumers. Governments can engage with each other to identify the key gaps and opportunities in this area and, from their own experiences, draw out best practices for educating the many power sector stakeholders on the purpose, benefits, and use of smart grids. Governments could also support the replication of proven engagement models in their markets.
- Workforce Skills and Knowledge: Deploying new smart grid technologies and approaches will require training not only of utility and power industry personnel directly involved with electricity production, transmission, and distribution, but also regulatory staff, information technology and cyber security specialists, and others who will need to deeply understand this complex and potentially transformational suite of technologies, practices, and systems. Governments can work with each other to develop a common vocabulary for discussing smart grid topics, as well as toolkits for educating and empowering the smart grid workforce.