Smart Energy, a sustainable solution

Smart grids give cities more insight and control to securely and sustainably manage their power needs, writes Mohamed Chemli of Thales

Smart grids and the penetration of M2M technology gives city utilities accurate understanding of their power usage and energy efficiency.
Smart grids and the penetration of M2M technology gives city utilities accurate understanding of their power usage and energy efficiency.

Smart cities, a grand culmination of information and communication are promising convenience, security and, ultimately, a better quality of life for their inhabitants. The development of smart cities has been topping agendas across the world for the last few years, and whilst governments are working to implement the technology to support them, residents are looking forwards to reaping the rewards of living in them. All the while the industry is evolving with solutions to make smart cities a global reality.

In the face of exponential growth, countries are facing the very real threat that they may not be able to meet the needs of their growing populations. According to data from the World Urbanization Prospects published by the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), over half (55%) of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to increase to 68% by 2050. Now, more than ever, the efficient use of energy is critical to life in a city, given the magnitude of growth in consumption.

The demands placed on urban infrastructure to sustain the growth are high, and energy is no different. Energy is one element of the smart city that has experienced rapid growth and development as of late. It’s something we often take for granted, but our increasing demand for energy means that its management is now top priority. Not only is demand in our homes increasing as the population grows and the number of devices we use goes up, but other fundamental aspects of daily life are changing our relationship with energy.

Smart cities are front of line when it comes to leveraging trusted IoT technology in improving energy efficiency. Smart meters are becoming industry standard and deployments are growing across the globe. At the same time, renewable energy sources are on the rise. New players and private citizens are joining the energy marketplace as they deploy solar and wind installations, while the spread of electric vehicles and next generation car batteries provides a new means of energy storage. We’re in the midst of an exciting smart energy transformation where the IoT is enabling compelling new business models that support an increasingly complex energy infrastructure.

Interestingly, Machine-to-Machine (M2M) technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) are enabling a brave new world of smart cities. Smart home hubs, smart grids and industrial routers are all integral cogs of efficient, smart city networks. Transportation systems, energy grids, and public services are being connected and monitored in real time to save time and energy, all the while improving the way we live, work and travel.

M2M technology is a key player, facilitating a two-way flow of energy and information between the utility and its customers through the introduction of smart meters. It has the ability to integrate the energy optimisation process, assisting utilities to remotely manage their assets, including automation, monitoring and control of distributed energy. This enables accurate demand management, time of day pricing, load balance and load optimisation.

The more environmentally significant impact of M2M is its potential to help energy companies reduce carbon dioxide emissions, lower energy consumption, introduce alternative fuels and drive operational efficiency – a top priority amidst ageing electrical infrastructures.

Mohamed Anis Chemli, VP sales, Mobile Connectivity Solutions, for Middle East Region at Thales.

IoT connectivity solutions serve as the backbone of a secure smart energy ecosystem providing highly efficient, secure wireless connectivity for smart meters and connected energy assets. Reliable in the most extreme environments, IoT modules provide trusted wireless Internet access ensuring real-time data transfer for smart meters, solar panels and load balancing and fault diagnosis solutions.

In the age of the IoT, energy infrastructure is becoming increasingly complex and is increasingly exposed to new security challenges requiring management and mitigation.

With new players joining the ecosystem, deploying assets that tie into evolving grid infrastructures, additional opportunities for cyber-attacks are presented to ‘bad actors’. As a result, there is emerging urgency to, for example, secure Advanced Metering Infrastructure. Unprotected smart meters, implemented for long periods exceeding 10 years, can easily be hacked to alter consumption data, to gain access to sensitive data, or even to cause physical damage to the global grid.

These attacks can be devastating: blackouts across entire countries, access to power plants and personal data breaches. For the industries participating in the grid — generators, distributors and retailers — impacts can include loss of customers, reputation and revenue. Robust security solutions to consider include tamper-resistant connectivity modules, unique digital identities for each connected energy asset, encryption technology and full remote management of the security lifecycle. These solutions are suitable for securing the power-generation and distribution layer, the communication layer and the application layer.

Smart energy and smart city projects will be a central part of delivering more efficient and reliable power in the decades ahead. As these types of projects expand globally, there is the potential for a truly smart power network that combines traditional and sustainable resources along with other connected elements in the smart city ecosystem enabling a low carbon economy with reliable, affordable energy for all consumers.

When it comes to implementation, it is not a case of one solution fits all. In Dubai, the Smart Dubai 2021 strategy is driving the city’s agenda focused on customer happiness, economic growth, and resource & infrastructure resilience. In addition, the UAE’s ‘Energy Strategy 2050’ is driving developments to reduce carbon footprint of power generation by 70 percent and increase consumption efficiency of individuals and corporates by 40%.

Every city is unique, each presenting its own challenges and each needing specific technologies to meet its requirements. Innovation, technology, hardware, connectivity and interoperability must culminate in one efficient system, a system that meets the demands of users, energy providers, and of course, smart cities. 

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