Challenges for smart energy grids – to combine ICT and energy systems and research

Smart energy networks and smart grids is often considered as a merge between ICT and energy networks or ICT supported energy networks. Research in the area is done both by information and communication people that start to look into energy system problems and solutions as well as by people from the energy sector that start to include and develop ICT solutions.

The IEEE SmartGridComm conferences are such events where people from both the energy and ICT “worlds” meet. I attended the 5th annual IEE SmartGridComm conference held in Venice, Italy November 3-6.

The different tracks of the conference represent different types of problems and research areas: Communications and networks (to enable smart grids), Cyber security and Privacy, Architectures, control and operation for smart grids, matching of demand and response (including dynamic pricing) and Data management.

I focused on the communication and network sessions, and I was chairman for two of the sessions; one on smart metering infrastructure and one on smart grid infrastructure.  At these communication oriented it was interesting to see the multitude of different types of researchers that presented papers. Besides people with an energy background there were “ICT” researchers active in wireless networks, signal processing, control theory and also “protocol people”.

The key note talks where really interesting for me; both as “a beginner in smart grids” and also as a techno-economic researcher. Marija Ilic, professor at Carnegie Mellon University, had a presentation on the role of sensing, estimation and communication. However the interesting thing with the talk was the emphasis she did put on the need for overall system, socio-economic and business understanding, i.e. not only to do research about  ICT and energy technology but also regulation, policy and business models.

More or same the same main message was delivered by Patricia Arsene at the EC Directorate for general communications networks, content and technology. She highlighted the need for the ICT and energy actors to join forces and collaborate. She gave example where joint policies were to be discussed and no actors from the telecom sector did show up. One area was spectrum policy where energy companies are interested to discuss spectrum sharing. The last slide in the talk had a message that I have seen a couple of time in other areas like mobile payments and IoT services: “…the key obstacles and challenges still appear at the socio-economic and regulatory levels – and not

and regare not about technology but rather to combine solutions from different sectors and find supporting policies and business models”.

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