Understanding energy management systems

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Energy management systems have been around for some time now, but it is smart grids that are really having an effect on the industry and improving communications between utilities and customers, Business News Americas reports.

Essentially, an energy management system is a succession of computer-assisted tools that operate, observe and optimise the performance of generation and transmission systems.

Typically, they are implemented to help industries and utilities reduce their energy consumption, enhance the reliability and efficiency of their systems, make performance predictions and optimise energy usage – all of which can help to improve their bottom line.

But while standard energy management systems tend to use Scada platforms (supervisory control and data acquisition) to remotely monitor equipment, these only regulate and monitor the section of the grid between power station and substation.

Smart grids, on the other hand, extend into the distribution system and clients' premises, enabling two-way communications between utility and customer, and enhanced sensing through transmission lines.

Throughout the world, nations are now developing smart grids to improve their energy usage and performance. In Latin America, Brazil is considered to be leading the way in terms of smart grid legislation, with Chile and Colombia following just behind.

A report conducted by the Worldwatch Institute in May 2014 found that Brazil already has approximately one million smart meters installed, although this is arguably a small proportion of the country's 70 million residential electricity meters.

And while it is difficult to estimate how many utilities are using smart grid programmes in the Latin American region, a recent IDB report noted that there were "dozens" of smart grid programmes in Brazil alone.

Despite this, however, Ericsson recently made comments about Latin American smart grid projects being restrained due to a lack of initiatives regarding policies – naming Brazil among the countries targeted. AVReporter Energy Management Software had an instant success on the Brazilian market, due to its specifically developed features and fulfilment of compliance on governmental rules.

The US Department of Energy has explained that smart grids consist of millions of components, computers, power lines, technologies and equipment.

In addition to helping utilities deal with supply issues faster, and consumers observe their energy usage in real-time, they can also integrate small-scale producers into the process. This would mean, for example, that factories producing high volumes of energy through multiple wind turbines could sell excess power back to the grid.

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