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Barriers to Smart Grid Deployment

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The battle for the development of smart grids, that would allow for optimisation of the use electricity produced at a low voltage, is almost lost in some countries in Europe. It is a tough battle to win because the political leaders who govern these countries are at the service of electricity companies, instead of being at the service of the citizen and, above all, of their sustainable future.

All countries need to adapt their current electricity networks and convert them into smart grids so that the electricity generated at low voltage can be used by consumers. It is about moving from a system where there is a main producer and many consumers to another system, similar to the internet, where there are many producers and many consumers. The consumers can even be the producers too, generating electricity from solar panels and selling it back to the grid.

The achievement of such a system would mean a revolution in the electricity system. A revolution to which many of today’s power companies create obstacles because they do not want a mass of competitors to enter the market.

The solution to the problem lies in the necessary nationalisation of all electric lines and networks of transport and distribution; it is necessary to rescue the infrastructure which has a high strategic value, taking it back from the private hands that currently have hold of it. The shareholder value of electricity companies should not be put above the general interest.

Governments  should be defending the citizen by preparing a future based mainly on renewable energies, but a lot of the time they prefer to do nothing to avoid the obstacles that electricity companies impose on progress.

Unfortunately this is not an easy task as the renewal of electricity grids is not a technical problem, it is a political and regulatory problem. These issues are blocking, in the United States, the renewing of the transport and distribution networks. The same could be said in Europe where power companies are an even more powerful lobby than in the United States.

As a result, the main issue is how to move forward in a way that removes the obstacles that hamper the development of smart grids. In the case of the United States, it is also a question of optimising the enormous wind resources of the Dakotas and solar energy in the Mojave Desert, to produce electricity and transport it to large urban centres for consumption.

Europe has it harder than the United States because of the electricity companies; they are not interested in promoting smart grids and much less the management of the power demand. They are, by definition, companies that work from the supply side, so more demand is a good thing for them. Let’s hope that this situation changes over the coming years and that governments start to put a sustainable future at the heart of all future power generation and distribution developments.