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Smart Grids

Smart Grids

Electric Energy Systems have evolved considerably in the last years due to an increase of variable renewable power sources in the generation mix, exploiting medium and small size distributed energy resources. This move from a paradigm of centralised to decentralised electricity generation has been accompanied by a user centric approach, where consumers are being empowered and become more conscious to make decisions about the profile of their electricity consumption. The consumer empowerment is being facilitated by the development and installation of advanced home meters that also improve the knowledge that Distribution System Operators (DSO) have about their system. These devices have been significantly developed in recent years, implementing a more complete and active grid component called Smart Meter. The smart meters also serve as a gateway for bidirectional communication with consumers and therefore they require an adequate communication infrastructure and other network intelligence and automation functionalities, enabling the emergence of an extended Smart Grid. 

The electrical generation diversity and the increased interactivity of the distribution grids require a completely different attitude from DSO and TSO (Transmission System Operators). In Portugal, system operators have already understood the need to gradually introduce changes in their systems, namely through the installation of new monitoring and control functionalities capable of dealing with the management of the grid and generation sub-systems.

These technological changes led to the conceptualisation of new control schemes for network operation, including Medium Voltage MV Dispersed Generation, microgrids, multi-microgrids, smart metering, electric vehicles and dispersed stationary storage devices. Furthermore, they have also required the development of new models for components (namely by considering the presence of new types of generation devices with power electronic interfaces), new monitoring and control schemes, decision and control mechanisms and communication architectures, evaluation tools and market integration models, including new remuneration schemes. Most of the know-how related to all these topics has been either incorporated at the INESC TEC R&D activities or has resulted directly from the knowledge production chain, developed at the institution, in a way that ranges from basic knowledge creation to the application and valorisation of that knowledge.

From the economic and social points of view, the development of Smart Grid concepts and technologies is required by the energy / climate package business models, defined after the Kyoto protocol, where a massive exploitation of renewable power sources is required from the side of the supply, together with an increase in the efficiency of energy use from the demand side.

In order to successfully tackle such a massive deployment of millions of new small active agents (generators, loads, storage devices), mainly connected from the low voltage (LV) grid side, a two-level synergistic approach is envisaged in this research line:

a) Strengthening the know-how in a set of core technologies within the electric energy system area;
b) Broadening the research scope to Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to tackle the emerging challenges, using a new generation of enabling technologies.

Jointly advancing the state of the art of ICT with energy system’s core technologies will leverage the development of a solid and mature Smart Grid concept with innovative solutions, along the following main R&D directions:

  1. Smart Grid reference architectures and conceptualisation of innovative functional blocks
  2. Modelling and tools for large scale microgeneration and Electric Vehicle deployment, including active demand response
  3. Advanced approaches and tools for optimisation and multi-criteria decision-making
  4. Specific ICT solutions for Smart Grids
  5. Advanced sensor technologies
  6. Stationary storage for smart grids
  7. Innovative energy and ancillary market services including new regulatory schemes

The research agenda will require also the development and laboratory testing of prototypes of the new control approaches and devices, as part of an integrated management solution. Such laboratorial tests will also serve as a way to demonstrate and transfer technology to the industry. This research line will exploit the laboratorial facilities that became available as a result of the ON2 funds provided to the "Infraestrutura Tecnológica para a Energia Sustentável" that INESC Porto has built.

The development of this research line on Smart Grids will therefore educate the workforce, reinforce and create an R&D installed capacity with adequate multidisciplinary skills to respond to the needs of the national and international industry in this area.



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