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A wiser approach to consumer-centric energy grids

An entire toolbox of innovative technological solutions and services are set to support Europe’s transition to renewable energy and smart grid systems.

Energy

The smart cities and communities of tomorrow need smart grids – electrical grids that integrate an array of sustainable features, including smart meters, smart appliances, renewable resources and energy-efficient solutions. Using a combination of automation, communication, and IT systems, these grids help utility companies – and customers – save energy, reduce costs and increase reliability and efficiency. But these smart grids aren’t a science fiction fantasy. Thanks to the work of initiatives like the EU-funded WiseGRID project, they’re already a reality. “The WiseGRID project integrated, demonstrated and validated advanced ICT services and systems for the energy distribution grid,” says Antonio Marqués, director of technology and innovation at ETRA and WiseGRID project coordinator. “In doing so, we developed a set of solutions and technologies capable of increasing the smartness and security of an open, consumer-centric European energy grid.”

A set of validated tools

The main outcome of the project is the development of the WiseGRID toolbox, a set of nine technologies that have been validated in real market conditions. These include the WG IOP, a secure and open ICT platform that utility companies can use to get real-time monitoring and decentralised control of the energy network. Researchers also developed an application that lets businesses, industries, energy service companies, public facilities, consumers and prosumers become active – and smarter – energy players. “The tool helps energy supply companies better manage their relationships with customers and the provision of renewable energy to consumers,” remarks Marqués. Other solutions include an electric vehicle platform that car-sharing companies and charging point operators can use to optimise charging/discharging and reduce their energy bills. The WiseHOME platform, on the other hand, helps individual homeowners gain better control of their energy use. “WiseGRID stands out in its delivery of tools that facilitate the creation of a healthy, open market where not only ‘traditional’ utilities, but also electric cooperatives, SMEs – even individual consumers – can all play an active role in the transition to energy democracy,” adds Marqués.

Ready to go the last mile

All the WiseGRID integrated solutions were evaluated and demonstrated at five pilot sites located in four countries (Belgium, Greece, Italy and Spain). Each site provided different technical, climatological, regulatory, legislative and social conditions. “It was challenging to develop technologies that would be workable across very different social, regulatory and economic contexts,” he explains. “But having to adapt to these differences ultimately led to the creation of more mature and interoperable technologies.” Although the project has succeeded at taking a user-centric approach to develop smart and green technologies, the work is far from over. “We’ve succeeded at producing innovative and very promising technologies,” concludes Marqués. “Now we must go the last mile, bring them to market and ensure their widespread use across Europe.” The project has won several awards, including the Renewables Grid Initiative’s ‘Good Practice of the Year Award’ in technology and design, and the EU Sustainable Energy Week’s business and citizens’ awards.

Keywords

WiseGRID, renewable energy, smart grids, smart cities

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