Smart grid is an infrastructure that allows suppliers and consumers to acquire in real time the energy information they need, and uses this information to enable the supply, storage, consumption, and transaction of electric energy in the right amount at the right time.
The electrical industry is without doubt one of the most conservative in terms of updating technology, including medium voltage (MV) and high voltage (HV) switchgear.
Why is that? For one thing, technological innovations appear about every 20 years, but switchgear can last as long as 40 years, remaining a valid architecture for traditional, centralized power transmission and distribution (T&D) networks.
Also, the T&D operators require stability – which they may view as a “lack of change” – and can be hesitant to deploy new technologies. Finally, maintenance and repair of such long-life devices is easier for service crews if there is no change in technology.
But to take advantage of today’s smart grid capabilities, the electrical industry must establish new criteria for switchgear. Smart grid-era switchgear needs to be more “digitally intelligent,” flexible, compact, and able to withstand harsh environments.
Smart grids have two main objectives:
Meeting these objectives means deploying digital technology that allows for two-way communication, between the utility and its customers, and between devices along the transmission and distribution network and the network operations center. However, much of today’s electrical infrastructure, including switchgear, enables only the simple one-way flow of communication valid for centralized energy production.
While the physics of switchgear remain basically the same, the technology is changing as well as the way to optimize it for the smart grid. Basic characteristics of smart grid technology are:
As smart grids evolve, digital intelligence will allow utilities to view, measure, and control what’s going on along the network. Remote control, which depends on digital intelligence, can optimize maintenance and avoid costly manned field service visits.
With more renewable and distributed energy sources integrating into smart grids, monitoring and measurement will become crucial to the ability to balance supply and demand.
The medium voltage switchgear market is likely to provide a solid opportunity for new players in the coming years due to the rapidly growing demand for electrification in developing countries. However, established players are likely to retain a strong dominance in the global medium voltage switchgear market in the coming years.
According to Transparency Market Research (TMR), the global medium voltage switchgear market is expected to exhibit a robust 8.7% CAGR between 2017 and 2025. The market was valued at US$22.5 bn in 2017 and is expected to rise to a valuation of more than US$44 bn by 2025.
Asia Pacific held a leading share of around 40% in the global medium voltage switchgear market in 2017 and is likely to retain a dominant share in the market in the coming years due to the growing demand from developing economies such as China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea. The Asia Pacific market for medium voltage switchgear is likely to exhibit a 9.5% CAGR from 2017 to 2025 and rise to a valuation of US$21.79 bn by the end of 2025. The medium voltage switchgear market is also likely to exhibit stable growth in the Middle East and Africa, with the regional market expected to display a 9% CAGR over the 2017-2025 forecast period.
The medium voltage switchgear market is dependent on the overall growth in adoption of electrical power distribution equipment in a region and is thus driven primarily by the rising demand for widespread electrification initiatives in emerging countries. The dominance of Asia Pacific in the global medium voltage switchgear market is based primarily on the unceasing demand for new electrification projects in developing countries where construction of urban infrastructure has become a top priority in recent years. The growing focus of several governments on rural electrification is also likely to benefit the medium voltage switchgear market in the coming years.
The growing adoption of smart grid technology across the world is an important driver for the global medium voltage switchgear market. Smart grid installations require precise control over various components of the electricity distribution system, making medium voltage switchgear essential to widening the reach of the technology. The increasing government interest in adopting smart grid technology in various parts of the world is thus likely to manifest in increased demand from the medium voltage switchgear market.
As consumers, introducing smart technology into our everyday lives has been straightforward. Without realising, we are spending more and more time handling objects built around computing power and software tools. The products we buy are changing our homes, where devices are increasingly connected to large communication networks leveraging thousands of data points. It’s increasingly common now to own wireless speakers or sound systems that stream music from online services, writing off decades of investment in CD collections and iPod music libraries. Shop for a new oven and it’s not unusual to be offered Internet connectivity.
The average person nowadays has at least four connected appliances and the number is growing. By 2020, the Internet of Things will connect around 33 billion devices – but not all of these will be brand new products in the traditional sense.
There are many ways to upgrade basic TVs with inexpensive plug-in kits that stream video and can even provide voice-activated Internet personal assistants. Our heating systems can be connected to smartphone apps simply with WiFi-enabled thermostats. Even second-hand cars can get Bluetooth communication using dongles that plug into control units or GPS capability with external navigation devices.
The energy revolution is changing attitudes. The demand for greater energy efficiency and grid resiliency is driving continuous growth in power grid architecture with more renewable generation and more energy storage systems. Electrical distribution is evolving in the age of digital microgrids.
Around 1.5 GW of low-voltage microgrids have already been installed worldwide and by 2020 this figure could reach more than 4 GW. Clearly there’s a real need for the different microgrid assets to communicate and to coordinate with each other.
And, like so much consumer-focused innovation for the Internet of Things, this does not necessarily mean changing the existing hardware. There is no need to replace everything. The digital transformation of power needs to be as simple as possible.
There is a lot of switchgear equipped with basic circuit breakers out there. Over the last decade more than 350 million circuit breakers without advanced connectivity or resource control features were installed globally. They still provide good mechanical performance, so substituting them completely is out of the question for many facilities.