Current grid

Future grid

Research projects

A smart energy grid should be considered from multiple perspectives:

  1. a smart grid as a real-time power control system optimizing its functions in relation to the physical infrastructure and environment,
  2. a smart grid as a complex system of energy producers, energy consumers subjected to governmental regulations,
  3. a smart grid as a complex system of systems consisting of several layers having to meet overall reliability and robustness criteria and being able to reconfigure itself if necessary.

We identify three corresponding challenges:

  1. At the lowest level, the existing electrical grid forms the physical layer of the future grid. This infrastructure is rapidly changing (e.g., due to the increasing use of distributed renewable sources) and becoming increasingly complex to manage. The questions then are (i) how to model the changing grid and its physical counterparts in order to be able to translate physical properties of the underlying infrastructure into resources and services on the ICT level and vice-versa, (ii) how to ensure stability and robustness of services provided by the underlying electricity infrastructure that is no longer fully under centralized control and (iii) how to maintain stability taking into account dynamic events resulting from changes on another level.
  2. On the other hand, at the highest level the smart grid is a complex socio-technical system governed by producers and consumers (prosumers), and governmental regulations. The fundamental research questions here are (i) how to identify the right institutional and market concepts and the way their dynamic behaviour can be modelled in a multi-layered ICT system, (ii) how to enhance the stability and robustness of such systems when dealing with dynamic behaviour of prosumers, and (iii) how to maintain stability when also taking into account changes in the underlying physical layer and its control system.
  3. Obviously, (control) actions to enhance stability and robustness performed on one level of a multi-layered system might have repercussions on other levels. Therefore, robustness of the total system cannot be guaranteed if interactions between these layers are not taken into account. A third challenge therefore consists in designing the right ICT concepts to (ii) model both lower levels and higher levels of control as a multi-layered model (ii) to develop hierarchical control concepts to deal with dynamic interactions between the layers and (iii) to ensure stability on an overall level grid by providing flexibility and reconfiguration mechanisms.

Power Web aims to integrate the contributions of several disciplines and technologies in the specification and design of a robust and reconfigurable ICT system for the multi-layered smart grid. These include transmission and distribution engineering, networking, engineering physics, energy conversion, systems theory & control, software technology, marketing, economics and public policy.

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