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Hot topics / Smart grid
2011-04-07

Here we present to your attention an interview with Academician Vladimir Fortov, who gave it to the portal of the Russian Academy of Sciences, telling about Smart Grids. In particular, he told about the discussion that unfolded at the round table Smart Grids Smart Energy Smart Economy, held at the IV Saint-Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 17-19, 2010 with participation of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

The text of the interview (dated 30.06.2010, translated from Russian by East Technologies):

- Vladimir, please tell us the meaning of the term "smart grid"?
- As you know, electricity provides the live activity and security of society and state. In this the technological core of the energy system are the electrical grids. In the present conditions these are presented the increasing demands for reliability, quality, efficiency and safety. At the same time modernization and innovation development of electrical grids using the latest technology concepts and systems must start with the infrastructure - in the first place, these reforms must be a catalyst for the further modernization of the electricity industry.
Smart Grid is a very large-scale trend in modern energy. This term is relatively recent: energy is no longer simply means of comfortable life, but becomes a tool for development of all areas of human activity. The meaning of Smart Grid is to make "intelligent" energy generation, transmission and distribution of electric energy, to saturate the power grids with modern diagnostic tools, electronic control systems, algorithms, technical devices such as short circuit limiters of superconducting lines, and with many others, that today appeared in science and technology. Roughly speaking, this is the joining of information technology capabilities, already familiar to us from the Internet with the power electronics. And it gives a multiple - many times reduction of losses during power transmission from generator to consumer, multiplication of security of supply, makes it possible to redistribute optimally the energy flows and thus reduce the peak load (and all electrical systems are designed precisely with a view to the peak load). Finally, it allows the user to work in the electricity market. After all, if the consumer took electrical energy from one vendor before, so now he is in the market: he can choose among generating companies. That, by the way, was the meaning of reforms in the energy sector - to create a competitive environment.
In order to analyze as the consumer - where to buy at less cost and take the energy, you need to know exactly - where and at what price it is sold, where today the excess, and where the flaw. Accordingly, if the manufacturer has it in excess, it should reduce prices - this shows the economic and social motive, which did not exist before.
Another need for Smart Grid associated with the so-called renewable energy sources. Both here, and in Europe it is said a lot that it is necessary to move away from carbon energy associated with the burning of fossil fuels and transfer to alternative energy - solar, wind, hydrogen, etc. In particular, it is also connected with the development of electric transport, where it is necessary to have dispersed power sources, chargers. But, in order to use renewable energy sources in a large network and make them the same facilities of the market, like other sources we need these Smart Grids.
There is an old problem related to electric power consumers. For example, you supply the electrical network to the home, where, let us say, two hundred apartments and twenty apartments are not paying for electricity, while the rest pay properly. In order to force these twenty apartments - but in a store you will not receive the goods without money, and electricity is the same product - you have to cut them off, but do this you need to know exactly who does not pay and cut in particular nonpayers without cutting off the neighbors. Today, unfortunately, we do not have such possibility only the entire house can be cut off. Or another question: how do we pay for heat energy, for water today? We calculate some averages, let us say, in Moscow and you get an invoice for heat or water consumption in accordance with this average figure. Of course, it would be better to put the meter and look in real-time - specifically how much you consume heat or water and to invoice you to pay only for that. But to do so, we need to saturate the entire system from generation and to the consumer, to socket in apartment or in the enterprise - with smart electronics that will give accurate information on: how much power can be delivered today, at what price. And though the management company or by yourself if you are able to do this, you choose the best manufacturer, and tomorrow - not that but another one. Thus, it is necessary to combine the diagnostic facilities on the one hand - with modern management facilities - on the other hand, and with decision-making means - on the third hand.
This is a very difficult task when it comes to the last stage of transmission - to the consumer. In fact, serious problems arise at much earlier stages. For example, if a high-voltage networks - 220 kV and above - there is, for example, short-circuit current, then you need quickly to disable this network to redistribute the load in real time and thus fend off an accident. And for that we need new, modern techniques for controlling high currents - in the tens of kA. By the way, we at the Institute of High Temperatures of SB RAS developed explosive breakers that break within few microseconds kiloampere currents. Or another similar problem: for example, lightning strikes a power line, and there are very large losses - overvoltage, short circuit, false alarm automation, etc. In our institute we developed magnetic explosion generator, which simulates a lightning strike the power line - it uses the explosive energy (and the specific capacity of chemical explosives is million times higher than the one of capacitors) and converts into electric current impulse - there is a discharge, very similar to a lightning strike. Our development allows to make the transportable equipment: it can be put on the car, and then - go to the real transmission lines, substations and check groundings, current limitation system and other electrical equipment.
The third problem: when you work on high voltage lines and want to measure current and voltage, you need to avoid high voltage from falling on the meter. Previously, it was done with transformers, but transformers are large in size, their insulators are also large - two meters long. It turns out that you can use fiber-optic line - such are used in telephone and computer communications - and see the change of the polarization plane of the Faraday rotation and according to the change of polarization plane on a very small device to determine which current flows there.
- And speaking of networks across the country?
- Nationally, we need backbone or distribution networks, which can independently monitor their condition and operating mode of consumers, generators, power lines and substations, and automatically implement solutions that make possible the uninterruptible power supply with maximum economic efficiency. For example, smart grid by itself should form the control action to achieve the optimal level of energy losses with increase of power flows through transmission lines due to the increase in consumption of large customer or whole interconnected utilities. Shall actuate self-diagnosis and self-repair, with this automatically should be identified the weakest areas or emergency dangerous elements of the network and also the network should automatically be changed over in order to avoid an accident. By the way, even today the Federal Grid Company (FGC) with the active support of its chairman M. Budargin implements a number of projects that will give similar qualities to the backbone network. For example, the introduction in 2011 of DC link at SS "Mogocha" 220 kV (Trans-Baikal region) will bring together for parallel operation of interconnection of Siberia and Far East, which will significantly improve the security of supply of Trans-Siberian line. This is a pilot innovation project. Similar work in the province Quebec in Canada and in California in the United States allowed to completely eliminate system failures - there the electric power supply of consumers is made with the application of long-distance extra-high voltage power transmission, including well-controlled DC systems. In fact, today there are about 60 back-to-back stations in the world and 40 more are designed. The important element of smart grid is a "digital" substation: works on similar projects underway in Europe, the USA, Japan, China, India, including our Federal Grid Company. In such substation, all information of control, protection and management systems is born, processed and managed in digital format with the help of special optical instrument transformers and complexes of digital equipment of new generation.
In short, science offers a lot of new technical solutions that need to be implemented.
- What is meant here, therefore, is a fundamentally new approach to the organization of the grid?
- Yes, if we summarize, then in the foreseeable future, the electrical grids must be a) flexible, to anticipate possible changes, problems and respond to them, b) available in order to all users of grids could be able to connect to them (generators and consumers) with the priority of renewable energy sources, as well as those that make the best use of hydrocarbon resources, c) reliable, i.e. ensuring safety and quality of power supply, d) cost-effective - on account of new technologies and efficient management of networks, e) and, finally, centralized and local control in normal and emergency conditions must be covered by self-organizing system, with that the state and control estimation in on -line and off-line mode should be carried out using high-performance programs.
This is, figuratively speaking, "technical requirement" for the Russian power industry - it must be formed into a coherent multilevel control system with increased automation and increased critical reliability, including the most weak and vulnerable links, with advance of systemic risks and threats and with quick response to incidents and accidents. That is the meaning which lies in the term Smart Grid.
- The round table is declared as an international, i.e. it was attended by representatives of foreign companies?
- As a matter of fact, the roundtable topic has attracted many: there were five times more people than expected organizers, which came to speak and to listen to the speakers and to be honest, there was nowhere to sit, however we sat 3.5 hours and completed all that was scheduled in the program. Foreign participants gave their speeches very actively. They are, for example, Lawrence Makowich, vice president and senior adviser HIS Cambridge Energy Research Associates, Rod Christie, president of the General Electric in Central and Eastern Europe, Russia and CIS, Udo Nihage, Chief Executive Officer of energy transfer department of Siemens AG, the representatives of French companies, etc. They made very interesting presentations, shared their experiences, we, in turn - our experience. They are interested in our market, but it's a huge market, and much that the Russian Academy of Sciences offers, they are ready to buy and implement at home.
Yes, many countries of the world develop projects to change over "smart grids" - in particular, for example, the EU develops the concept "European electrical grid of the future", so foreigners are interested in this subject.
At the same time simultaneously all developed countries started this work in a very dynamic way. The global economic crisis was the starting signal to modernize the economy and, almost in the first place electric power industry. So, Barack Obama, in his famous speech concerning science development, mentioned especially the theme "smart grids" and most recently, also gave a speech, specifically about energy, where he said that Smart Grid is a direction that we should actively develop. Indeed, the introduction of Smart Grid has already dramatically increased the reliability of national energy systems in the U.S.A. Therefore, the U.S.s budget allocated $ 4.5 billion only for development program of smart grids! Thus, the West increases the financing of science in this direction: the share of expenses on science in energy companies of developed countries accounts 3-8% today.
- Does the Russian smart grid approach differ from the West one?
- Certainly, yes. Specialists in the West tend to orderly operation and interaction of the densely sited generating plants, power grids and consumers on account of intellectual possibilities, fault-tolerance and two-way data communication at the territorial and organizational level of municipalities. They are primarily interested in the connection possibility of small generating sources of power, adaptation to the dynamics of consumption and energy savings ensuring with the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. On their market they have the demand for local smart grids; management tasks at the inter-regional, national and international level of energy systems functioning concern them less.
A power supply of consumers in Russia realizes in the difficult conditions of economic, technical and natural-climatic nature, we focus on large-scale generating facilities and we have different level of integration of large systems with a significantly higher level of complexity of system interactions. Accordingly, we need global electricity grid reconstruction on the principles of multi-functional automation. Including - taking into account the long-run task of phased recovery of coordination control over the operation of power systems of CIS countries on bilateral and multilateral basis. The approach to the connection problem to the existing grids of small and alternative energy objects and related local power grids differs in Russia.
By the way, just because of this specific, purely Russian, we were always in advance in many achievements: the Krasnoyarskaya hydroelectric power station - was the most powerful, Sayano-Shushenskaya the most altitude, the first wind turbine was built there, the longest power system of 2.5 million kilometers was done first in USSR, the most economical gas cycle with efficiency of 62% was invented by Russian scientist - Academician Sergei Alekseevich Khristianovich, the first nuclear power station is our and so on. Russia was never behind in electro-science and in energy sector like, for example, now in computer science, in medicine. The U.S.A started the program of smart grids four years ago - it is a small advantage for Russia.
- What is best remembered in the speeches of Russian participants of the round table?
- - Our directors, specialists, scientists said a lot of value. I do not undertake to retell everything now, but I am ready to tell the meaning of some speeches. O.M Budargin, chairman of the Federal Grid Company of Unified Energy System (OAO "UES FGC"), gave a serious report. The name of his report is: "Smart grid - development platform of innovation economy." This company - natural monopoly in electricity transmission sector, it owns and manages the Unified National Power Grid 220 kV and above in 73 regions of covering. Unfortunately, the systematic under-funding in the 90s and the lack of integrated approach during use in networks of new technological solutions, has led to that state of electrical networks in Russia today does not meet modern requirements to ensure power supply reliability and efficiency of the economy. Our grids - are, unfortunately, aging infrastructure, physical and mental aging of electrical equipment, outdated information systems and technological control. The overall structure of the electricity system is extremely heterogeneous on a global basis of technical and technological and other parameters and characteristics, which also retards the process of elimination of existing disparities and requires ordering in a single approach that is expedient to form based on new principles of energy system construction. Therefore, the Federal Grid Company of Unified Energy System proactively plans for the upcoming "five years" to create a basis for smart grid construction. This means that during the first three years - to form a new ideology and technological platform for future reorganizations. True, the concrete work on many important elements of the smart grids started now. The company plans to form the concept of smart grid taking into account the international experience, and with the involvement of the national fundamental science. And during next two years the company will test new ideas, technologies, realize pilot projects for full implementation of smart grids. The mechanism 3+2, as expects the company, will permit to coordinate work with plans of increase of investment program of over 200 billion rubles annually. So the company plans to conduct a comprehensive modernization and development of all subjects of electric power industry on the basis of advanced technology globally across the country. Thus together with the institutions of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the company intends to monitor the advanced innovative technologies, develop and implement basic and "critical" technologies, develop scientific potential. The expected reduction of energy losses due to planned activities in the grids of all voltage classes - about 25%, i.e. savings of approximately 35 billion kWh per year.
By the way, the Russian Government ordered JSC "FGC UES" to concentrate on creating smart grid. The report of V. Dorofeev, general director of JSC "R&D Center for Power Engineering" was also informative. While the power engineering is the largest customer and consumer of related sectors of the economy, the wear of fixed assets is over 50%, machinery and equipment - 70%, construction - 60%. V. Dorofeev told about enlarged "road map "developed by our specialists, which involves the development and adoption of the concept of smart power systems and architecture of their management, development of technical requirements for electricity entities. Smart Grid, based on measuring and energy accounting systems, maximum uses local energy sources, including different ways of storing energy, has a range of controls that are configured to provide balance; through standard interface interacts with the overall control system to address the imbalance and control in case of emergency situations
- What do you think is the significance of the round table?
- Round Table confirmed that the success of problem-solving of overcoming the global crisis and sustainable post-crisis development of our economy is mostly determined by how much electric power industry in Russia will be able to meet current and future energy and related services requirements. Further, the round table demonstrated the role of Federal Grid Company of Unified Energy System in development of electric power complex of Russia on the basis of smart grids; it became clear that this company intended to become the coordinator of cooperation in this direction. It is essential important for us the support of scientific and technical direction by the President and his administration, passed through A. Dvorkovich, invaluable insight and personal support by Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko. And, finally, it is known that, unlike some other areas of science where unfortunately there is a noticeable lag in the theme of "smart grids" both Western and Russian scientists and specialists start almost simultaneously.

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