Smart Grids and Artificial Intelligence

What are Smart Grids?

According to the European Union Commission Task Force for Smart Grids, “a smart grid is an electricity network that can cost-efficiently integrate the behavior and actions of all users connected to it – generators, consumers and those that do both – in order to ensure economically efficient, sustainable power systems with low losses and high levels of quality and security of supply and safety.”

A smart grid relies on emerging IoT technologies and other modern technology infrastructure to increase the participation of consumers in the efficient use of energy, diminish the environmental impact of electricity generation systems, and guarantee the high-quality delivery of reliable, quality, and secure electricity supply.

Some of the elements of a smart grid are:

Smart meters which are a form of advanced metering infrastructure that record near real-time information on energy consumption and other electricity related metrics. They relay the information to both the user and the supplier to provide more understanding of consumption patterns and for better system monitoring and consumer billing.

Renewable energy sources

Smart homes which are integrated with smart distribution boards and circuit breakers.

Importance of Smart Grids

The discovery of electricity is one of the most impactful human findings. There has been a progressive increase in the sources and means to harness and distribute electricity over the years – from the earliest alternating current power grids invented in the 19th century to the interconnection of power lines from central power station sources by the 20th century.

As the generation of electricity has increased, so has its demand by both individual homes and industries. While existing power grid infrastructures are still in mainstream use, they are not entirely equipped to handle the dynamism required by modern-day energy demands. 

A significant limitation of existing power grids is the centralization of the power distribution. Central power stations are often targets for attacks. The risk is limited with the use of smart grids.

In addition, with the recent focus on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar energy, the importance of smart grids cannot be overstated. These energy sources are characteristically variable in nature. Therefore, the use of smart grids allows for the automated adjustment of energy generation, distribution and consumption based on demand and supply needs. 

Economic Impact of Smart Grids

According to Statista, in 2021, the smart grid technology market was valued at $36.9 billion and is estimated to grow to $56 billion in 2026. Markets and Markets’ research estimates the smart grid market to have been worth $43 billion in 2021 with the possibility to reach $103.4 billion by 2026. Precedence Research further projects that the market will be worth $162 billion by 2030.

While these figures vary, they are built on one central idea: smart grids are the future of electricity distribution.

Smart Grids and Artificial Intelligence

Data Analysis and Self-Learning: The self-learning capacity and data handling of AI-powered systems are among the most instrumental ways it contributes to the functionality of a smart grid. In a smart grid, both data and electricity are transmitted across the network. The data is pooled from millions of intelligent sensors and analyzed in a timely fashion to generate precise insights that guide energy allocation. 

Predictive Capacity: AI’s predictive capacity is valuable in a number of ways. For example, as a means for predictive maintenance. Through the use of computer vision technologies, barely perceptible hardware defects can be uncovered and flagged for intervention. Sensory systems can automatically reroute power away from defective areas. In addition, predictive maintenance AI can be used to build outage-alert systems that notify operators of grid collapse before it happens. 

Smart Grid Cybersecurity: Despite being an upgrade on traditional grids security-wise, smart grids are still vulnerable to attacks – especially cyberattacks. Deep learning algorithms can combat this with their capacity to recognize malware and complex network attacks. Each attack is a learning experience for the algorithm to improve at protecting the smart grid.

AI is still at its infancy. As it advances, its capacity to upgrade smart grids' performance will only improve to build a world powered by clean and efficient energy.  


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