Smart Grid Research Creates a Basis For an Energy System of The Future
Finnish companies and research institutes have been developing an energy system of the future in the multidisciplinary research program Smart Grids and Energy Markets.
At its simplest, a smart grid means automation that improves the reliability and profitability of electricity grids.
‘However, in the long term, smart grid research aims for radical changes in the energy market at both the national and international levels,’ says Program Manager Jani Valtari. Changes are necessary due to the targets in sustainable development in energy production and the increasing need for electric energy. It must be ensured that the future electricity system supports renewable energy production.
The research program aimed to develop smart grid solutions, which can be demonstrated in the Finnish energy system and utilized on the global scale. The solutions are related to the architecture, components, management and maintenance of grids. In addition to technology, business models for future energy markets were also developed in the program.
The ultimate purpose of the study was to boost expertise and competitiveness in the field in Finland. ‘We have an excellent starting point. Finland and the other Nordic countries are leading the field in the utilization of automation technology in electricity networks. It can be said that electricity networks are already smart, but the development continues at an accelerating speed,’ Valtari points out.
The development of smart grids in the technical sense requires, above all, expertise in energy technology and in information and communication technology. Practical solutions also require close cooperation between electricity sellers and distributors. Various levels of the cooperation were ensured by joining the forces of as many as 25 companies and eight research institutes in the program. The researchers also utilized and strengthened their international networks.
‘Thanks to the cooperation, we have been able to study the change in the entire system. We have created research platforms, which enabled demonstration of the research results in real environments. At the same time, we have built preparedness for new products and methods of operation. The companies will find it easier to continue their own product development work on this basis,’ says Valtari. Mr Valtari himself works at ABB, which is one of the participants of the program.
The research program was led by CLEEN Ltd (Cluster for Energy and Environment), a strategic centre for science, technology and innovation (SHOK) for energy and environment companies and research communities.
The program is known by the name SGEM, Smart Grids and Energy Markets. Its total value was EUR 52 million, of which the companies paid 34 per cent, public research institutes 10 per cent and Tekes the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation 56 per cent. The program started in early 2010 and it will end in February 2015.