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Wed 20 Jan 2010 11:02 AM

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Smart Grid – a cleaner way to fuel a nation

GE Energy's Bob Gilligan on how the UAE can best meet power demand in the future.

At the World Future Energy Summit, leaders from around the world are focusing on balancing prosperity and growth with a sustainable supply of energy for generations to come.

To keep pace with the growing economy of the Emirates, UAE power authorities are developing initiatives to expand and improve the region’s electrical infrastructure, including integrating more renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, into their energy networks.  

Meeting the ever growing energy appetite in one of the world’s highest population growth areas may seem a daunting task, yet the technology exists to efficiently deliver reliable energy while adding a healthy supply of cleaner energy into the mix.  It’s called “Smart Grid".

In the simplest terms, the smart grid marries automation and information technologies with our current electrical infrastructure to support our 21st century energy needs.

The smart grid delivers real-time information and knowledge – empowering smarter energy choices by: .  

Optimizing cleaner energy sources (like wind and solar) and enabling broader penetration.

Empowering consumers with information about their energy usage to enable them to make smarter choices without compromising their lifestyle.

Delivering increased energy efficiencies and decreased carbon emissions.

Increasing power reliability and operational efficiencies, resulting in a more productive energy infrastructure.

With UAE energy consumption forecasted to double by 2020, we need to find a way to meet demand reliably and efficiently while reducing unwanted environmental emissions.  

The only way to meet increasing demand is to increase the use of conventional power plants and add grid infrastructure to track the growth in peak demand.    Smart grid technologies can increase energy efficiencies and improve utilization of the existing electrical infrastructure.  Asset optimization technologies can help prolong electrical transformer life.

Energy management systems can accommodate the integration of higher percentages of cleaner energy sources into the electrical system. And smart grid technologies deliver efficiency through intelligence, enabling societies to achieve more, using less.

Deploying smart grid technologies can help Middle East countries like the UAE to increase the amount of its growing energy demand with renewable energy sources.  Today, about 97 percent of UAE electricity production is fuelled by carbon-producing natural gas.  

Untapped wind and solar energy sources, which are abundant throughout the Emirates, can be harnessed and optimally integrated into the grid through the use of smart grid technologies.

This is important, as the UAE has highlighted its commitment to sustainable development and the use of alternative energy sources. In fact, Abu Dhabi has announced that 7 percent of its energy will come from renewable sources by 2020.

A well-known challenge of renewable energy sources—like wind and solar—is that their power output is inherently variable.  

Smart grid technologies can help manage output variability and alleviate reliability concerns caused by these fluctuations.

GE has already successfully introduced smart grid integrated forecasting technologies that help predict the amount of renewable energy that will be available.  Integrating renewable power forecasting with energy management and distribution systems allows power dispatchers to run conventional generation much more efficiently, reducing the spinning reserves needed to compensate for the uncertainty of renewables.

A visionary effort now underway in the UAE is the Masdar Initiative.  With the goals of establishing economic self-reliance, sustainable development, and encouragement of foreign investment, the initiative focuses on the twin commitments of protecting the global environment and diversifying the UAE economy.  

Established in Masdar City, the world’s first carbon-neutral, waste-free, car-free city, as well as the global headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and home of the world’s first Ecomagination Center,

One sustainable growth initiative is the landmark pilot program between Masdar City and GE for a new smart appliance pilot program that will measure and transmit real time power consumption over a two-year period.

Involving some of the city’s first residents, the program will test how GE’s smart appliances and GE’s Home Energy Manager technology can plug into a smart grid to lower power demand in the home and across the city.

Smart grid is not a vision of the future, but rather a solution to the energy and environmental challenges facing us today. Smart grid infrastructure solutions hold the potential to quench our thirst for energy while shrinking the environmental impact of power generation.  

And the smart grid roadmap to success involves a dynamic vision of open systems and shared platforms so that energy and environmental solutions can arise from anyone…and everyone. The United Arab Emirates can create a sustainable, environmentally conscious energy infrastructure today that ensures a viable, self-reliant economy for tomorrow.

Bob Gilligan is Vice President, GE Energy – Transmission and Distribution.

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