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The Importance of Power Grids and Environmental Justice

Electricity networks can integrate the needs of all users connected to their generators, consumers, and those that do both to deliver sustainable, secure, and economical electricity supplies efficiently. Smart grid systems ensure environmental sustainability, security of power supply, and economic efficiency. They target all the core objectives of integrating decentral and renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, into the distribution networks. The aim is to balance demand and supply within the networks considering intermittencies caused by weather and reducing peak supply or demand. Smart power grids have been termed critical enablers in transitioning to more sustainable energy systems. The electricity networks can reduce electricity peaks to avoid expensive network expansions. Moreover, they can achieve demand reduction by forecasting energy use and connecting it to daily behaviors, such as the use of household appliances.

Nonetheless, the development of smart power grids has spurred critical public debate fuelled by the perception that energy companies do not pass on the benefits to consumers. The energy companies are not open about the benefits leading to justice and trust issues. The public concern also derives from the automatic, more frequent, and more detailed information on the consumer’s energy use in central databases. There are increasing consumer privacy concerns as many fear the violation of their rights and the increased threat of cyberattacks. The fears act as a barrier to accepting and adopting intelligent power grid systems. Society’s concerns stem from legitimate arguments about core values like justice, security, or privacy. The societal concerns reflect that smart power grids are not only a matter of the energy policy triad but also an evaluation of the broader moral and social values of the communities affected by the development. Social and moral values, in the case of socio-technical systems, such as power grids, requires criteria for a design that exceeds the core technological functionalities of a system. Modern grid systems have the potential to achieve a significant reduction in outage frequency and duration. Power disturbances cost cause enormous damage to the economy, which the modern grid system can dramatically reduce. The distribution circuits have enhanced protections, can communicate, and features other control elements. The circuits can sense parameters, detect faults, and quickly restore service. Effective consumer interfaces enable the integration of demand response and real-time load management into grid operations. Moreover, the advanced decision support systems allow an understanding of when to reduce the electric system load quickly. The ability of the modern power grid system to acquire and transfer real-time data allows the system to detect, analyze, and respond to issues autonomously. The advanced sensors can collect valuable information on the conditions throughout the power grid. The modern power grid’s use of advanced control and communication systems, along with the combination of distributed generation and storage options, means there is reduced dependency on the transmission system, increased operational flexibility during normal and unforeseen circumstances, and reduced risk of common mode failure impacting the entirety of the power grid (Outka 13).

Reduced power quality disturbances represent an enormous annual cost to society, as merely minimizing productivity loss for commercial and industrial customers can eliminate billions of dollars of waste. A single event of power disturbance to commercial facilities, such as data centers, customer service centers, and banks, can lead to tremendous losses. Power quality issues can even lead to increased costs for manufacturing facilities. Dips in voltage that lasts only the smallest milliseconds can have the same impact as outages lasting several minutes. Power grids that can detect and correct power quality problems by monitoring the supply and demand-side conditions can take corrective actions before they become significant. High-speed transfer switches can eliminate disturbed sources and replace them with clean, backup power supplies at the distribution level. Improving the power quality of the grid system offers opportunities to enrich and broaden the commercial bases of marginalized regions and communities. Improving the power quality benefits the utility and the consumer, as poor-quality power leads to shorter equipment life and increases electrical (KWH) losses (LaBelle 623).

Modern power grids reduce the chances of regional blackouts to near zero. The cost to society from massive blackouts is estimated to be about $10 billion per event. The modern power grid utilizes advanced technologies to detect threats and take corrective measures to ensure reliable service. The improved human interfaces and decision support systems allow the transition of complex and extensive system information into formats that trained operators can quickly understand. The integrated communication allows for the development of real-time analytical tools that enable system operators to predict and prevent events that are detrimental to reliability. Power stabilization software can detect early signs of a cascading blackout and autonomously take corrective measures faster than a human can react. Advanced components, for example, flexible AC transmission systems, allow the power grid to respond quickly to emerging problems (Tarekegne 103).

Modern power grids improve public and worker safety. The modern grid has a self-healing feature, which features intelligence to enhance the safety of grid workers and the general public. The improved monitoring and decision support systems identify problems and hazards quickly, for example, the ability to detect equipment on the verge of failure and quickly shut it down to save lives and minimize severe injuries. Additionally, modern power grids reduce maintenance costs by eliminating unnecessary work and reducing exposure to accidents. In addition to the reduced duration and number of power outages, increased public safety and crime issues are proportionately reduced (Clayton 221).

Modern power grids improve the accessibility of electricity to buyers and sellers, and the price is available to both parties in real-time (Tarekegne 102). Energy price signals facilitate the consumer to participate in the electricity market with the price shaped by the forces of demand and supply. The increased access additionally results in a reduction in unplanned outages and grid congestion. Overall, modern power grids increase market efficiency resulting in an economically correct electricity price. In addition, electricity markets that are fully enabled drive smarter decisions pertaining to where to locate grid resources. Robust electricity markets create opportunities for new options and revenue streams for the participants. The modern power grid allows for many ways of new load distributed generation, storing energy, and options in demand response. Extending the participation to a wide variety of electricity market stakeholders, such as distribution companies, distributed generation owners, and consumers, improves the performance of retail and wholesale markets. Products in the energy market, including peak shaving and accumulation of reserves, can provide revenue to the owners. Moreover, utilities and consumers can gain a wealth of information from the transformed meter through consumer portals and DR technologies. The demand-response programs satisfied the consumer’s need for enhanced energy purchase choices. The DER is another modern power grid that has the potential for a significant economic impact, as simple connections to the grid can accelerate consumer adoption of small generation and storage devices (Shyu 107).

There are lower costs owing to more efficient operation and improved asset management (LaBelle 617). Most of the data obtained to support the self-healing feature can also aid improved asset management programs. Advanced monitoring technologies are part of the power grid aloe for dynamic equipment ratings, enabling optimal asset loading and providing detailed awareness of component and equipment conditions. Some assets remain longer in service and have a lower maintenance profile with a modern power grid. In addition, when asset-utilization data are integrated into the distribution and transmission planning models, significant long-term investments required to increase system capacity become more cost-effective. The need for new and costly assets will reduce due to the communication technologies offering alternative options to enhance grid reliability rather than merely adding new and costly hard assets.

The modern power grid enables the deployment of many forms of generation and storage, including environmentally friendly ones (Govindarajan 26). The power grid encourages the adoption of smaller DER sources, including those based on clean technology. Consequently, the efficiency results in substantially lower CO2 per unit of useful energy than conventional fossil-fired power generation facilities. The modern grid also encourages improved access to the grid of more centralized solar, hydro, and nuclear energy, which produces zero emissions. They reduce the need for new centralized generating stations and associated transmission lines. Allow demand response and energy storage to be combined with intermittent renewable resources and enable many states to meet their goals for renewable portfolio standards. The modern grid’s focus on improved power quality has environmental benefits, as reducing harmonics and momentary voltage excursions reduces electrical losses and equipment damage associated with environmental damage.

Works Cited

Clayton, Susan. “The role of perceived justice, political ideology, and individual or collective framing in support for environmental policies.” Social Justice Research 31.3 (2018): 219–237.

Govindarajan, Hari Krishnan, and L. S. Ganesh. “Integrating energy governance and environmental justice: Role of renewable energy.” Renewable Energy Focus 43 (2022): 24–36.

LaBelle, Michael Carnegie. “In pursuit of energy justice.” Energy Policy 107 (2017): 615–620.

Outka, Uma. “Fairness in the Low-Carbon Shift: Learning from Environmental Justice.” Energy Justice. Edward Elgar Publishing, 2018. 12–40.

Shyu, Chian-Woei. “A framework for ‘right to energy to meet UN SDG7: Policy implications for meeting basic human energy needs, eradicate energy poverty, enhance energy justice, and uphold energy democracy.” Energy Research & Social Science 79 (2021): 102–199.

Tarekegne, Bethel. “Just electrification: Imagining the justice dimensions of energy access and addressing energy poverty.” Energy Research & Social Science 70 (2020): 101639.


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