7 Disadvantages of Smart Grid Explained
Disadvantages of smart grid systems are; regulatory problems, data usage and vulnerability, technical requirements, integration complexity, expensive installation, risk of communication challenges, and weather-related malfunctions.
This article discusses the disadvantages of smart grid systems, as follows;
1). Regulatory Challenges (as one of the Disadvantages of Smart Grid Systems)
Due to their elaborate technical makeup, establishing and enforcing suitable regulations for smart grid systems is often a challenge.
With regards to regulations, the focus is to adopt approaches for maintenance, operation and management, that ensure the efficient running of the smart grid, as well as the safety of grid operators and energy consumers.
Areas of regulatory concern include cybersecurity, pricing, data handling, privacy, and utility .
The multi-component, integrated framework of smart grids may also lead to difficulty in selecting stakeholders, and in choosing between a centralized or decentralized model of control.
2). Data Usage and Vulnerability
The need to continuously collect, analyze and utilize data is one of the disadvantages of smart grid systems.
Data handling comes with a degree of complexity, as well as risk.
In addition to privacy concerns that arise from the handling of consumers’ power usage data, the database of smart grid networks can be attacked in a bid to access data and manipulate the system.
Main methods by which smart grid databases are attacked include database link and malware usage . Hacking of the database can pose security risks and fiscal losses to both operators and consumers of electricity.
3). Technical Requirements (as one of the Disadvantages of Smart Grid Systems)
The technicality of smart grid systems often poses a challenge to operators and energy consumers.
This challenge (or challenges) can be attributed to the fact that smart grid technology is yet to be filly developed or ‘mature’. As a result, there are still some gaps in innovation and modification with respect to smart grid systems.
Technical problems of smart grids include challenges of integration of multiple power plants, stability of supply, load control, and system protection .
These problems can affect energy conservation capability, causing losses to occur in transmission and distribution of energy. They may also reduce energy efficiency of the system.
Other areas where technical issues are faced include communication, data management, and cybersecurity.
4). Integration Complexity
The complexity of integration processes is one of the disadvantages of smart grid systems.
Although it is a technical challenge, the significance of integration in comparison to other technical issues implies that it should be addressed separately.
A robust smart grid network requires collaboration between both non-renewable and renewable energy facilities. Integration of such multiple facilities is often a challenge due to differences in technological architecture.
Studies have shown that the effective integration of solar energy facilities like solar panel arrays and power plants into the smart grid network, will help achieve outage mitigation, load shifting, micro grid automation, and peak shaving, among others .
The same is the case for other renewable technologies and fossil fuel alternatives like geothermal, wave power, hydroelectric systems, wind energy, and nuclear power plants.
New transmission facilities and storage facilities like batteries may also need to be integrated into the grid network. Integration challenges imply that modification and upscaling will be affected.
Addressing this problem requires innovative developments to increase the flexibility of smart grid networks.
5). Expensive Installation (as one of the Disadvantages of Smart Grid Systems)
Although there are many benefits of smart grid systems, the technology is generally expensive.
Compared to traditional grid systems, the smart grid is highly complex and comprises of multiple components including electric generators, power plants, smart meters, transmission equipment, sensors, algorithms, and communication facilities.
Therefore at the stage of component-acquisition and installation, smart grids demand much time and labor, which implies high cost.
Some analyses have estimated the cost of smart grid installation in a large-scale residential setting to amount to hundreds of billions of dollars .
Also, the gaps in innovation, trial and error, and security challenges of smart grid networks may contribute to the cost.
6). Risk of Communication Challenges
One of the requirements for an effective smart grid network is a consistent and stable communication system. However, this is not easy to achieve.
Because of the continuous and large-scale use of smart grids, communication problems like network congestion and poor performance are likely to occur, especially during times of need; such as power failures, system faults, security breeches and other emergencies.
The presence of multiple formats of data from multiple sources, makes communication highly-demanding in smart grid systems. Some common communication problems include access to data, cyber security correspondence, and interoperability.
Demand-response (DR) functionality is what makes smart grid networks better than the traditional grid, by minimizing power losses and optimizing supply.
Communication challenges can affect demand response, and may create problems in adapting supply to demand .
Addressing this challenge requires the development and deployment of advanced, high-capacity communication systems.
7). Effect of Environmental Conditions (as one of the Disadvantages of Smart Grid Systems)
Due to the presence of multiple outdoor components, smart grid systems are vulnerable to the effects of weather conditions .
Natural hazards, climate change and extreme weather-related events like storms, flooding, heat waves and extensive erosion can damage or impair smart grid facilities, leading to abrupt outages and other malfunctions.
This is a major problem for smart grid networks due to the elaborate nature of interconnections here compared to traditional grid systems. Although the traditional grid is also susceptible to weather-related damage, it does not present the level of complexity that is associated with smart grids, during repair.
Efforts to reduce the effect of weather conditions on the smart grid include the adoption of high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission models  with structurally-resilient components. While such efforts do not guarantee resistance to damage, they reduce the risk of such occurrences.
Disadvantages of smart grid systems are;
1. Regulatory Challenges
2. Data Usage and Vulnerability
3. Technical Requirements
4. Integration Complexity
5. Expensive Installation
6. Risk of Communication Challenges
7. Effect of Environmental Conditions
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