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Microgrids and Smart Grids in Definition

21 July 2016

By Aloysius Damar PranadiFor decades, most countries rely on large grids to fulfil electricity needs. However, with the rapid development of technology, there is a significant contribution from smaller grids all over the world in recent years, especially to fulfil the demands in remote areas.

Smaller grids comprise of mini-grids, microgrids and nanogrids. Mini-grids are the utility grid that is small in capacity and geography or could be a group of some microgrids. The microgrid system is a small power supply system that consists of loads and distributed energy resources (DER), such as renewable energy (RE) sources, co-generation, combined heat and power (CHP) generation, fuel cell and energy storage systems. Nanogrids are single domains of power; single physical layers of power distribution, reliability, quality, capacity, price, and administration.

The Internet era has also brought the new development in the power sector as now we are starting to develop smart grids. It is the newest type of grids, involving smart technology. In comparison to microgrids, smart grids have digital information and control, dynamic optimisation of grid operation and resources, distributed resources (similar with microgrids or specifically smart microgrids), demand responses, demand-side resources, energy efficiency (EE) resources, smart metering system, smart integration (real-time response and timely information on consumption) and advanced electricity storage. Moreover, smart grids have other advantages such as faster protection, controlled self-heals, more robust, more renewable, more efficient, higher power quality, more reconfigurable and higher capacity factor. A scheme of Sumba Smart Microgrid in Figure 1 gives a visual explanation on the smart grids. Figure 1. Scheme of Sumba Smartgrid Island

Of note, there is no fixed common definition on smart grids in this current stage of development, as each country may have its own definition. However, Table 1 below shows a good comparison between today’s grid with the smart grids in the future.

Table 1. Today’s Grid and Smartgrid Comparisons

Microgrids and Smartgrids Definitions Today’s Grid and Smartgrid Comparisons


Photo Credit: Matthew Henry

1. Nordman, B. (2016). Local Grid Definitions. Lawrence Barkeley National Laboratory.
2. Kim, D.-y., Park, J.-s., Jeon, D.-h., Kim, S.-m., & Won, Y.-j. (2015). MICROGIRD’S STRATEGIC PLANNING IN KEPCO. 23rd International Conference on Electricity Distribu. Lyon.
3. Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs. (2013, April 2). Smart Grid Development Policy in Indonesia. Presentation. Hanoi, Vietnam.

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