The existing grid infrastructure in the UK, both for electricity and natural gas distribution, is reaching capacity and will require significant upgrading in order to meet future demand for energy. However, if the resources within the distribution system are made more intelligent by the uses of monitoring and sensing, the existing plant life can be extended to meet demand for several years. In order to achieve this, substations and gas pumping stations are being equipped with systems to monitor usage and control supply. With the addition of smart meters in homes and businesses, the overall energy supply capacity can be matched with demand-side consumption.
In-feed (supply) resource sensing and monitoring
The challenges of matching supply side generation between base load capability and variable producers such as wind farms requires extensive predictive sensing and analysis to optimise resource utilisation.
User (load) resource and usage monitoring
There is significant interest in being able to manage the peak load from consumers during periods of high demand. This has the benefit of optimally matching the generation capacity with the load. In addition to simply matching, there is significant activity in the research of smart appliances (such as fridges, washing machines, gas boilers etc) within business or homes which can selectively be powered down during periods of high demand. Clearly this type of control must be well regulated and different cost models are being examined to test this approach.
Massively distributed sensing and control network for Smart Grid optimisation
In order to fully optimise the energy distribution, whether gas or electricity, there is a requirement for a massive sensor network. The amalgamation and presentation of this disparate data will require significant post processing in order that the information is suitably presented to make rational decisions. Research into the management and presentation of data is crucial to enable this.