Balancing Grid to Need

Power grids have to change in order to accommodate various developments and needs. Engerati’s report, The Future of Transmission and Distribution: Adapting networks to the challenges of renewable and sustainable electricity generation by authors Jane Fae and Professor Merlin Stone, discuss how the grid needs to be modified in order to meet new demands.
Published: Thu 17 Jan 2013

The grids that are in use today are unlikely to be up to the transmission and distribution requirements ten years from now. This is due to: 

  • Overall energy requirements which are on the increase
  • Additional remote customers
  • Additional new, and different, energy profiles
  • The grids which act as a highway for significant additional energy resources

Trends in additional energy requirements

The amount of additional energy required within a particular national grid is likely to shift markedly in line with the changing profile of the nation’s economic development. The US Energy Information Administration forecasts that the global generating capacity will increase by about 60% between 2008 to 2035.The actual result may well be higher or lower, and the increase in individual countries is likely to vary even more widely. In some instances, particularly the newly industrialized and developing world, growth is likely to be even greater. 

The increase in proportion of a nation’s population connected to the grid may be slower than the top line Energy Information Administration growth figure appears to indicate. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), cited in a report by the Alliance for Rural Electrification, in 2008 almost one quarter of the world’s population lived without access to electricity (estimated 1.5bn people) and the majority of people without access to electricity lived in rural areas (85%). The IEA forecasts that unless current policies change, this figure will still be 1.2bn in 2030, with the number of people without access to electricity in areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa actually increasing.

The trend towards microgeneration

The picture of growth in energy requirement is complicated by a trend towards microgeneration in developed and developing countries. 

In developed nations, a self-sufficiency movement is leading some homeowners to set up microgeneration facilities within their home and to go off-grid. The economic case for connecting every home to an often under pressure national grid is not always evident, as alternatives such as installation of local microgeneration facilities, based on renewable sources, may be more effective.In Germany, 20% of its power comes from renewable sources and the larger part of that comes from the private sector. 51% of renewable energy supply, representing US$100bn of private investment, comes from private individuals and farmers: utilities, by contrast, own no more than 13% of the total. This is a direct result of Germany’s strategic drive to build a distributed renewable sector through state incentive for small private enterprises producing electricity to feed in to the national grid. 

Developing nations are seeing a number of microgeneration projects beginning to take shape. Most of these projects, led by China, can be found in Africa. The addition of remote communities to the grid is likely to be a significant element of energy planning in BRICS or emerging countries.

Engerati Analysis

It is evident that the power grid’s development is unique to its nation’s changing needs. Each grid has to be developed to accommodate specific population and economic requirements, as well as governmental goals such as energy efficiency and renewable energy targets.


Engerati-The Future of Transmission and Distribution: Adapting networks to the challenges of renewable and sustainable electricity generation