International collaboration enables the sharing of risks, rewards and progress, and the co-ordination of priorities in areas such as technology, policy, regulation and business models. In order to reach the goals set out in this roadmap, smart grids need to be rapidly developed, demonstrated and deployed based on a range of drivers that vary across regions globally. Many countries have made significant efforts to develop smart grids, but the lessons learned are not being shared in a co-ordinated fashion. Major international collaboration is needed to expand RDD&D investment in all areas of smart grids – but especially in standards, policy, regulation and business model development. These efforts will require the strengthening of existing institutions and activities, as well as the creation of new joint initiatives.
Expand existing international collaboration efforts
Standards play a very important role in the development of technology. By providing common design protocols for equipment, they can increase competition, accelerate innovation and reduce costs. International collaboration on standards is vital to ensure that the needs of various regions are included, and to reduce repetition and overlap in the development of standards. Several organisations are already working to harmonise standards; continued and increased efforts are needed as discussed earlier in the section on technology development.
There is an urgent need to develop a significant number of commercial-scale demonstration projects and share the results among electricity system stakeholders. Projects are being developed at a national or regional level, but the reporting of data, regulatory approaches, financial mechanisms, public engagement experiences and other aspects need to be shared globally. The International Smart Grid Action Network (ISGAN), which has been created to address this need, will serve an important role as a platform and forum for compiling global efforts, performing analysis and developing tools for stakeholders. The Global Smart Grid Federation (GSGF), APEC Smart Grid Initiative, the European Electric Grid Initiative (EEGI) and European Energy Research Alliance Joint Programme (EERA JP) on Smart Grids are examples of global or regional initiatives that need to build on and strengthen their collaboration as they monitor the implementation of the actions and milestones in this roadmap.
Create new collaborations with other electricity system technology areas
Smart grids include technology areas, such as renewable energy resources and demand response, which are not exclusively associated with, but are related to, smart grids. Some of these technology areas were being studied long before the term smart grid was developed, and therefore may offer solutions to problems that smart grids hope to address. Collaboration with these electricity system technology areas has the opportunity to accelerate the useful deployment of smart grids and avoid repeating past development work.
An ideal way to collaborate across these electricity system technology areas is through the IEA Implementing Agreements (IAs). Of the 43 IAs, 11 focus on electricity system issues (Table 9); these are co-ordinated under the Electricity Co-ordination Group (ECG). These IAs develop and deliver broad knowledge about the electricity system as a whole along the entire value chain on an international level. The ECG enables those working under related IAs to learn what others are studying and determine ways to analyse aspects that cut across several technology areas; this is especially relevant for smart grids. The need for an implementing agreement focus on smart grids is currently under consideration.
Smart grid collaboration and developing countries
Smart grids can provide significant benefits for developing countries that are building up electricity system infrastructure. In some cases, the solutions applied in developed countries will be appropriate; in others, targeted approaches will be required. Collaboration between developing and developed countries can provide the basis for identifying problems and solutions.
Some countries have already started to pursue smart grid activities and some of these efforts include international collaboration. However, other countries need to be more actively engaged, through information-sharing efforts about the benefits and best practices of smart grids. Roadmaps tailored to a set of needs common to many developing countries – such as rural electrification and island-based systems – would provide much value. These roadmaps could identify the barriers to wider technology deployment and the means to overcome them, including regulation, policy, finance, and targeted technology development and business models. Additionally, targeted energy system modelling, standards development, legislation precedents and capacity building would help identify and prioritise developing country specific needs and advance technology deployment (Bazilian, 2011). International platforms such as ISGAN and GSGF, as well as the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation and other organisations focusing on developing country needs, could be used to help capacity-building efforts and to share lessons learned and experiences.
Conclusion: near-term roadmap actions for stakeholders
Smart grids are a foundational investment that offer the potential to substitute efficient use of information for more conventional "steel-in-the ground" investments in the electricity system, at considerable cost savings to consumers, as demonstrated by early results of pilot projects. Smart grids will also change how power system planning is done, and how wholesale and retail electricity markets are co-ordinated. The information collected through smart grids will not only empower customers to manage their electricity consumption but will enable electricity system operators to better understand and meet users’ needs
The roles of the government and the private sector are often misunderstood, at times by themselves and often by each other. The broadness and complexity of the electricity system (technologically and from a regulatory and market perspective), and its importance to society in general, increase the necessity to understand who should perform the actions outlined in this roadmap. Neither the government alone, nor the private sector alone, can accomplish the goal of modernising the electricity system. Collaboration is vital.
Below is a summary of the actions by key electricity system stakeholders, presented to indicate who should take the lead in such efforts. In most cases, a broad range of actors will need to participate in each action.
Source: Technology Roadmap- Smart Grids
© OECD/IEA, 2011