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Smart Electric Grids: Definition and Advantages


Smart electric grids are an innovative solution in the field of electric infrastructure. These networks use digital technologies to improve monitoring of networks and address the environmental concerns. Along with the advantages offered by smart electric grids, the installation of these systems is rather costly and their widespread use can lead to serious security breaches.

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Smart electric grid is a computerized network which monitors the processes of distributing and using electricity to improve their efficiency, economics and sustainability. The implementation of smart grid technologies is an attempt to use digital technologies in monitoring and controlling electricity. The definition ‘smart’ means that the data is gathered automatically and stored in one database.

Another important advantage of these networks is their ability to self-heal in case of external threats and destabilizing factors (Amin, 2001). These functions are especially important in the present day environment, where complex infrastructures are interdependent, and processes in any part of the network can result in global effects forecasts for the coming decades, the share of electricity use is expected to grow. It explains the importance of improving the situational awareness, reliability and precision of electric systems by means of digital devices.

The recently passed federal stimulus can become a big beginning, significantly increasing health of the US electric transmission system and giving space to further improvements. In 2009, President Obama granted $ 3.4 billion to 100 smart grid projects. The 100 recipients of the grants, ranging from $ 400, 000 to $ 200 million, were chosen among 400 competitors (Will we get our money’s worth, 2009). Importantly, these projects will offer tens of thousands of new jobs and improve the reliability of 18 million meters. The money was allotted to improvement of outdated distribution networks and installation of 200, 000 of transformers.

Therefore, apart from immediate advantages of monitoring improvement and smart utilities responding to the weather challenges, the federal stimulus allows consumers to take even more control over their electricity consumption and make it more efficient. By the way, the improved monitoring facilities offer opportunities to pay attention to the renewable resources, such as wind and solar energy. Thus, even though the recently passed federal stimulus does not comply with the demands of all applicants, the chosen strategies for the future development of the infrastructure can significantly increase health of the US electric transmission system.

Along with creating opportunities for more efficient operations, the smart electric grids give rise to a number of security concerns. The widespread implementation of such systems would increase security vulnerability of the networks. The digital intelligence included into electric grids would increase the risks of cyber attacks (Lippert, 2006). The two-way functionality of the interconnected networks is associated with a number of security breaches.

However, the smart grid security can be maintained similarly to other digital systems, such as online banking or voting systems, for example. The existing cyber security standards traditionally used in other sectors can be applied to solve the problem of security vulnerability in smart electric grids.

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Therefore, smart electric grids can be advantageous in terms of improved monitoring and control over distribution and consumption of electricity, as well as more efficient responses to weather changes. At the same time, these computerized networks require consideration of expenses for installation and increased vulnerability, resulting from two-way functionality of the interconnected networks.

Reference List

Amin, M. (2001). Toward self-healing energy infrastructure systems. IEEE Computer Applications in Power, 14(1), 20 – 28.

Lippert, A. (2006). Critical infrastructure resilience: Infrastructure security for the built environment. ISBE 2006 congress and expo. US Department of Energy.

Will we get our money’s worth? $ 3.4 billion in smart grid stimulus grants go to 100 projects. (2009). Web.

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