A common roadmap for global smart grid development established itself, with smart grid's journey across Europe, Latin America and Asia passing through some important stages on its way to ever-increasing importance in the energy industry.
'Those developing smart grids are facing up to four key challenges, beginning with standardisation and interoperability,' said Enel Distribuzione's Head of Smart Grid Development Jon Stromsather at the recent Smart Grid International Forum held in Rome. 'These are essential for the reduction of the cost of devices and compatibility between old and new products.
'Together with these two elements, it will be necessary to develop business case financing, work on raising awareness among customers and undertake a review of legislation surrounding the technology.'
From smart grids to the smart system, the electricity sector is going through a period of profound change in which each phase of the supply chain is seeing increasing use of smart elements. Pioneering operators like Enel have first mover advantage thanks to its ongoing pilot initiatives – such as smart cities in Italy, Spain, Brazil and Chile – and a growth in already established micro-grid and infrastructure models, such as storage systems, e-mobility, energy efficieny solutions and street lighting.
Italy is a model for the rest of the world in this respect, as it was the first country to widely introduce electronic meters through Enel Distribuzione's Telegestore project a full decade ago, and it also laid the foundations for the development of smart grids way before other countries. Besides paving the way for distributed generation, prosumers and the integration of renewable energy onto the grid, electronic meters have also produced benefits for users, reducing grid unavailability by over a third – from 128 minutes in 2000 to 40 minutes in 2010 – and halving the cost of transmission and distribution.