FIGURE 9.3 Development path for the perfect power system. SOURCE: Galvin Electricity Initiative (2006).


•   Level of integration of the entire power delivery infrastructure. Higher levels of integration require ever more significant transformation of the infrastructure for communications and control, as well as of the overall power delivery infrastructure.

Each of these configurations can essentially be considered a possible structure for a future power system in its own right, but each stage logically evolves to the next stage based on the efficiencies, and the quality or service value improvements, to be attained. In effect, these potential system configuration stages build on each other starting from a device-level power system connected to other device-level power systems that then can evolve into a building-integrated power system, a distributed power system, and eventually a fully integrated power system as diagrammed in Figure 9.4. Figure 9.4 also highlights technologies that would have to be further developed for this concept to evolve.

The optimum configuration may vary for different environments. For instance, the availability of inexpensive and clean central generation (e.g., advanced coal, advanced nuclear, advanced hydro, and large wind systems) may accelerate the migration to the fully integrated stage, whereas other service systems developing from new portable, localized, or distributed infrastructures may achieve their final optimum in the distributed structure.

In a stochastic simulation of a completely decentralized system, Zerriffi (2004) showed that such systems could achieve dramatic improvements in power delivery reliability in the face of system disruptions (see also Farrell et al., 2004). Although no civilian system has approached this level of decentralization, some military systems have begun to evolve toward it.

Distributed systems have also become attractive to those concerned with energy efficiency and reducing CO2 emissions, because it is typically possible to operate them as high-efficiency combined heat and power systems. The net energy use efficiency of such systems can be twice that of central stations in which “waste” heat must be disposed of via cooling towers. Recent analysis by King (2006) suggests that even with current technology and rate structures, micro-grids could be cost attractive in some applications. However, there are significant regulatory barriers that must be addressed if such systems are to become widespread (King, 2006; Morgan and Zerriffi, 2002).


FIGURE 9.4 Evolution of possible configurations (from center outward) and relevant nodes of innovation (in outer ring) enabling the power system. SOURCE: Galvin Electricity Initiative (2006).

The Centralized Approach

The centralized approach assumes that the creation of an intelligent electricity power delivery infrastructure will evolve from the existing power system through bottom-up transformation created by individual companies adding advanced capabilities piece by piece onto the existing grid.

The basis of this transformation is that over the last few decades, advances in diverse technologies—solid-state electronics, microprocessors, sensors, communications, and information technology (IT)—have transformed society and commerce, permanently increasing society’s capabilities and expectations. These advances also present new opportunities for operating and using the electric power network, opportunities not envisioned when the power delivery system was first formed. For the power system itself, there is the possibility of creating a nimbler, more flexible network that marries electric power with cutting-edge communication and computing capabilities—an intelligent system that can

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