Colson Research Society public lecture 2012

Smart Grid - Hope or Hype?

Jon Z Bentley
Partner, Innovation, Energy & Environment and Leader, Smarter Energy, IBM Global Business Services UK & Ireland

Jon Bentley - 29 November 2012


The energy infrastructure and, more specifically, the electrical power system, is one of the most critical parts of the infrastructure of any developed country. It has been largely unchanged for over 100 years and has generally proven to be reliable, resilient and able to flex to meet ever increasing energy needs. However, there are current proposals - and, indeed, actual work is already underway - that will dramatically change this infrastructure: where and how power is generated;  how the various component part of the energy system are connected; and how the energy generated and distributed by this infrastructure is used. Importantly, for the first time, energy consumers will be able to interact directly and in real-time with the energy system. This future infrastructure - comprised of integrated electrical power, control, information and communication technologies -  is often referred to as the Smart Grid.

This lecture addressed the characteristics and constituent parts of a smart grid and offered a definition of what should - and should not - be considered a smart grid. It explored the role of smart grids in our future society, the drivers for adopting the technologies, the benefits anticipated and the challenges in realising these. Social and market changes are as important as technical implementations, and Jon looked at what might be needed to bring about Smart Grids in the UK, especially given the unique structure of our energy markets, and at some of the potential pitfalls. The talk was illustrated by examples of successful, innovative projects as well as drawing lessons from those that have encountered difficulties, especially where problems have arisen as a result of the impact on customers. Finally, the lecture asked how smart grids might evolve and whether some more radical changes in the energy market could dramatically change this course. The speaker's focus is on the end-to-end nature of smart grids and the impact they have on the energy system and its participants and customers rather than on the detail of the electrical and information technologies involved.

Organiser: Dr Dritan Kaleshi, Communications Systems and Networks, Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Merchant Venturers School of Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Bristol.