Emerging Trends | SDG13 | SDG9
October 15, 2012

Boosting energy efficiency through smart grids

Photo by Jake Sloop on Unsplash

Through harnessing the power of Information Communication Technologies (ICT), a future of lean and clean energy is possible.

A new report commissioned by the ITU titled, “Boosting energy efficiency through Smart Grids,” outlines how ICT can help mitigate climate change by building a more controllable and efficient energy system.

A smart grid is an electricity grid that uses ICT to gather and act on information from suppliers and consumers in an automated way. This allows it to integrate energy from unpredictable and intermittent renewable sources and to distribute power much more efficiently.

Smart grids deliver electricity more cost-effectively and with lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Electricity and heat generation are major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and their share is expected to increase. At present, electricity is mostly generated from large fossil fuel plants.

ICT infrastructure has the capabilities to more efficiently capture energy and slash waste. One of the most obvious is the use of back-up energy storage and generators compensating for the relative lack of energy storage options for managing electricity supply and demand imbalances.

Smart grids can play an important role in the deployment of new electricity infrastructure in developing countries and emerging economies. It can also assist in managing peak demand, prevent electricity theft and also contribute to meeting environmental targets.

For example, hydropower in sub-Saharan Africa currently accounts for 45 per cent of its electricity power generation. This represents only a small fraction of the enormous commercially exploitable potential. Africa also has abundant solar potential.

Decentralized power, often based on renewable energy sources, is likely to be an important component of any significant expansion to electricity access, especially in rural and remote areas. However, in many developing countries the higher initial investment required for green energy (compared to that of fossil fuel) may be a barrier to the widespread use of renewable energy sources.

Investing in renewable energy sources and reducing the carbon footprint of the energy sector with the help of ICT requires a long-term vision.

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ITU is the United Nations' specialized agency for information and communication technology. Any opinions expressed and statistics presented by third parties do not necessarily reflect the views of ITU.

Boosting energy efficiency through smart grids

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