A test results: smart grid will cause chaos and blackouts

Although study after study has said smart meter integration will have no major effect on the grid, a new study found that widespread deployment will cause chaos on the electric grid. So, what is different this time?

Credit: Magnus Manske/Wikimedia Commons

The study, conducted by Bremen University Insitute of Theoretical Physics in Germany, found that a widespread deployment could lead to blackouts on the grid and other massive issues. The scientists said the idea of a worldwide smart grid is only focused on the short-term — and that could be its downfall.

The research team simulated the environment where a smart grid deployment happened on a large scale — and found that their artificial energy market would create ongoing bubbles and crashes, similar to what recently happened in the real estate and financial industries. This is because the smart grid would be more reliable than the current electric industry, and the variations on the current grid have led to a supply and demand market that has kept the industry running. The research found that if everyone knows when to purchase the cheapest electricity, there could be a strain on the grid during that time that could cause a collapse or blackouts.

 For instance, if everyone waits to do laundry until non-peak time, then it would suddenly become peak time and could overload the grid.

“The average economic agent is often used to model the dynamics of simple markets, based on the assumption that the dynamics of a system of many agents can be averaged over in time and space. A popular idea that is based on this seemingly intuitive notion is to dampen electric power fluctuations from fluctuating sources (as, e.g., wind or solar) via a market mechanism, namely by variable power prices that adapt demand to supply,” the report explained. “The standard model of an average economic agent predicts that fluctuations are reduced by such an adaptive pricing mechanism. However, the underlying assumption that the actions of all agents average out on the time axis is not always true in a market of many agents.”

The team said peak usage has always been thought of in the past on an individual basis, but their data looks at the possibility of populations of cities, regions, or countries using energy at the same time. The study explained that “small price changes may translate to large load fluctuations through catastrophic consumer synchronization. As a result, an adaptive power market may cause the opposite effect than intended: Power demand fluctuations are not dampened but amplified instead.”

Because of this, they recommend putting more thought into the smart grid industry before attempting a full smart grid roll-out.


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