Energy blog

What is a Smart Grid?

Published by geoffbrickell on 12 October 2011

Smart Grids The construction of a nationwide smart electricity system, known as a "Smart Grid" has recently been emphasised as a major policy and implementation priority in order for the UK to meet its stated aims of an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050.

It has been shown that a diversified generation system, with a high proportion of offshore wind and nuclear, will be the most economical way to ensure that 32-40% of our electricity will be generated from low-carbon sources by 2020 - which is required to meet our EU carbon reduction committments.

In addition the Climate Change Act of 2008, that commits us to the 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, means that we will need an almost complete decarbonisation of the electricity sector by 2030, as well as much greater electrification of heat and transport.


Today's electricity transmission and distribution network however was built to utilise the output of conventional, fossil-fuel generation. It was designed to accomodate the full output of major electricity generators simultaneously and as a result, electricity transmission and distribution networks are designed for the unidirectional flow of electricity from large generators to centres of demand.

A Smart Grid is however required to manage the intermittent nature of supply from renewable sources such as wind and solar - and 'smart' usage management will also be required to avoid unnecessary peaks in demand.

The UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) and the Energy Generation & Supply Knowledge Transfer Network have just released a new report which provides an up-to-date snap shot of smart grid development in the UK. Read more here and download their report here.