The latest study by the International Energy Agency (IEA) into the use of smart grids has found that current global trends in the supply and use of energy are becoming increasingly untenable and the world needs to rethink the way it can achieve a more sustainable energy future.
According to the report "Smart Grids Technology Roadmap," failure to adopt smart grid technology and methodology – which can play a crucial role in ensuring the uptake of vital renewable energy and mitigating the effects of climate change – will have negative economic, environmental and social consequences.
The Smart Grid Roadmap report is the latest in the IEA’s series of studies designed to guide governments and industry on the actions and milestones needed to achieve the potential for the full set of clean energy technologies.
Smart grids differ from normal energy grids in that they use digital and other advanced technologies in the way they track and transfer power from generators to meet the varying needs of users throughout the network.
Under a smart grid network system, energy transfer becomes more decentralised, with recognition given to the evolution of renewable energy sources like solar power plants and wind farms in the energy mix. Even home solar energy systems feeding electricity back into the grid become part of the distributed electricity generation cycle, creating a more stable and secure energy system.
The IEA would like to see smart grids in place by 2050. "We need to see a much more aggressive investment in large-scale regional pilots in order to deploy smart grids at the scale they are needed," said IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka, speaking at the study launch in Paris on 4 April.
The Smart Grids Technology Roadmap can be viewed here (PDF).