In America and other countries, smart grids—the use of technology to optimize the delivery of electricity—are being advocated as a means of combating global warming. To make smart grids a reality, the electricity meters installed in every house must be upgraded (“made smart”). HD-PLC has shown itself to be one way to implement the new features for these devices.
A smart grid is an electrical grid that uses information technology to automatically regulate the flow of electricity between the supplier and the consumer. The aim is for electrical grids to progress from simply supplying electricity one-way from the power utility company to houses and businesses to grids where electricity is passed back and forth between houses/businesses and the power utility company. This progress will also help the adoption of other environmentally friendly electricity generation such as solar power and fuel cells. President Obama’s “Green New Deal” policy includes large investments for construction smart grids. In addition, Europe, Japan, and other countries and regions all over the world have begun developing technologies and started verification processes for implementing smart grids.
To fully implement smart grids, a technology that regulates the supply of electricity within the grid itself is essential. The key is a grid where electricity flows in both directions. For example, of the meters that automatically measure electricity usage, called AMR, the majority of this functionality is used to communicate the amount of electricity used to the power utility company. However, high-level reciprocal communication such as the electric company sending notifications to houses, downloading the meter and related programs, and even functions such as the power utility company gathering data on-the-fly such as information about or the amount of energy supplied by a house to the electric company just can’t be done. Thus, an electricity meter that enables the sharing of information between the electrical company and houses—in other words, a network-capable electrical meter—is necessary. HD-PLC is a strong candidate for such network technology.
High-speed broadband opens the way to truly smart grids
In fact, the movement to put communication functionality into electricity meters predates smart grids. It was begun in Europe, and was partly implemented. However, the transmission speed was at the 100 kbps level. While this is sufficient for measuring the amount of electricity a home was using, it is not enough for implementing a smart grid.
To lower CO2 emissions through the use of a smart grid requires that the power utility company be able to check, in close to real time, the level at which a home emits electricity and how much electricity can be bought from a home. With that information, the power utility company can optimize the electricity generation system and the distribution system to minimize the over-production of electricity.
Smart grids currently under consideration measure the amount of electricity generated by a house once every 15 to 30 minutes. Apart from taking measurements once a month for billing purposes, checking real-time information from a large number of houses both frequently and reciprocally requires faster power line communications than before. HD-PLC meets this requirement.
By installing an PLC module inside an electricity meter, electricity can be supplied reciprocally. This lowers the burden on the power plant and promotes reduced CO2 emissions.
Proposing smart grids as an international standard
We are envisioning a future where smart grids are prevalent, and we have begun the process of establishing an international standard through the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) for smart-grid related communication devices. HD-PLC has a high probability of being selected as the communication standard because it has been recognized as the baseline technology for the IEEE P1901 BPL standard. With recognition as an essential component of smart grids from the IEEE, an advocate for smart grids, HD-PLC can take its place as a model case for technology helping the environment.