Intelligent grids pt 1, The rise of the prosumer


In this first piece of a three part series, we introduce you to intelligent grids – a new approach to energy consumption. Our current one-way energy distribution framework, from source to consumer, is antiquated and could be replaced by the sophisticated two-way collaboration of intelligent grids that balances the system with maximum efficiency. This new system opens the grid to “prosumers” – electricity consumers that produce their required amount of green energy while also feeding it into the system1.


Enter the world of Smart Grid technology

The goal of an intelligent grid is to provide service as efficiently and environmentally sustainable as possible. According to the European Commission;

A Smart Grid is an electricity network that can cost-efficiently integrate the behaviour and actions of all users connected to it – generators, consumers and those that do both – in order to ensure an economically efficient, sustainable power system with low losses and high levels of quality and security of supply and safety for supply and the consumer.SmartGrid Mandate

The concept of Smart Energy can be broken down into three key components3 :

The consumer
(Or prosumer) becomes the active centre of the system. Individuals and businesses are empowered with the ability to combine and manage the production of energy with their consumption.

The networks
As traditional power distribution and telecommunications networks, they contribute to optimize the distribution model by exchanging information in real time.

The supply
In addition to traditional energy sources, this includes power generation on a small scale and greater flexibility to adjust production to demand.


Image courtesy of


Additional benefits of Smart Grids, as identified by the Telefónica Foundation include4 :

  • More efficient transmission of electricity.
  • Faster recovery of electricity after power disturbances.
  • Reduction of operations and management utility and energy costs for consumers.
  • Peak demand reduction, which also helps to reduce electricity rates.
  • Greater integration of large renewable energy systems.
  • Better integration of customer-owner power generation systems, including renewable energy systems.

The networked grid’s function is driven by the intelligence gathered through communicating amongst the different components, balancing supply and demand, all the while reducing errors and energy losses in the process5.


Integrated networks everywhere

This state of the art technology is being utilized by early adopters around the world. The Telegestore Project, an Italian project completed in 2005, is recognized as one of the first commercial smart grids connected to the home. In Austin, Texas, a mesh network has been in the works since 2003 with over 200,000 smart devices communicating wirelessly in real-time. The U.S. Department of Energy deployed the ARRA Smart Grid, a $9 billion project considered to be one of the largest smart grids in the world6.

In Ontario, the electric utility, Hydro One, is facilitating the implementation of a large-scale Smart Grid. According to their most recent annual report,

The initial phase of the smart grid project is expected to be completed by 2017 [with the objective] to enable distributed generation integration, improve reliability and operations, and enhance outage restoration and network planning.Hydro One Inc


Rendered Concept of a Smart Grid

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The Smart Grid is here

With the amazing opportunity for advancement that intelligent power grids present, it is astounding to think about what the future has in store. Plans are even being drafted for a new conceptual open grid in which all energy production, storage and consumption elements are integrated, allowing users to collaborate and balance the grid7. Putting the power in the hands of consumers not only changes how we interact with our energy, but makes the state of energy consumption an important industry in which we play an increasingly important role.

Stay tuned to the Electric Blog – where this series will be exploring the role of the utility industry and how the Internet of Things impacts the development of smart grids.

1., 3., 4., 5., 6. Wikipedia, 7.