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  • Nigel Hargreaves

Smart grids and the grid edge

Updated: Oct 13, 2023

Smart grids have multiple definitions but all point to added value for electricity users who are by definition situated at an end or node of the physical electricity system. We may call this the grid edge. The grid edge is being transformed by digitalisation, promoting opportunities to engage energy end-users (consumers) in a low carbon transition supported by smarter systems. Engagement can take the form of collaborative design, but is more likely to represent the kinds of transactions that grid users are able to make, such as in a local energy market with peer-to-peer trading. The grid edge therefore drives the transformation from the traditional consumer only energy customer, to participants who are often described as prosumers, generating, storing and trading their own surplus energy. As a result of smart grids, such dynamics are now increasingly possible, which is why the term transactive grid has been applied in cases where business not only between traditional energy generators and suppliers carries on, but also includes transactions originating from energy users themselves. All of this has been enabled through smart grid interoperability which itself depends upon the seamless layering of digital standards by which the transactions must conform to maintain a stable electricity system. The articles below develop the vision for a layered architecture supporting greater grid edge interoperability and enhanced user engagement based on work started under the future power systems architecture initiative.

A critical consideration in developing a transactive grid is the interoperability between different technologies deployed in a layered architecture, which link the points of energy use, generation availability for balancing to network and market management parties. This requires standards to seamlessly interconnect at each level of the value chain stack to perform functions at an increasingly lower level from market facilitation to energy system communication and connectivity at the most fundamental level. Whether this framework can cooperate with current UK system arrangements would depend on the extent to which such a digital framework could be superimposed or introduced within it. In other countries where different market structures exist a digital framework of this kind has been enabled to varying degrees - see the papers linked above for more information.

Transactive grid framework
Conceptual transactive framework for integrating the grid edge

Three discussion papers are available to download which were published from 2018-2019

Time for the tide to turn on power system architecture?

Realising value from digitalisation at the grid edge

Paving a way for user-centric energy service system design


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