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There are no quick fixes to long-term energy challenges. To find solutions, governments and industry benefit from sharing resources and accelerating results. For this reason the IEA enables independent groups of experts - the Energy Technology Initiatives, or ETIs1.

Smart Grids

A ranking of the main survey results showing the main drivers and technology priorities among ISGAN participants.

Increasing capacity and reliability

Policy context
A safe, reliable supply of electricity drives economic growth. Unfortunately, most electricity networks were built more than 100 years ago, while others are unable to handle the considerable increase in demand. In addition, the sources - and uses - of electricity are becoming more complex. Integrating “smart grid” technologies such as advanced information, sensing, communications, control, and energy technologies and systems can significantly improve electricity network reliability while at the same time enable demand-side management. Policies and measures to support smart grids include framework policies oriented to a systems approach, targets, international standards, and continued support for R&D.

The International Smart Grid Action Network was launched in July 2010 under the Clean Energy Ministerial1. Organised under the ETI focusing on smart grids (ISGAN), the goals are to spur the accelerated development and deployment of smart grid solutions worldwide through activities to develop a better global understanding of smart grids, address gaps in knowledge and tools, and foster improved knowledge sharing and project collaboration. There are 25 Contracting Parties including China, India, Mexico, Singapore, South Africa and Russia.

Given the new area of study that smart grids represents, ISGAN set out to create an inventory of the smart grid motivating drivers and technology priorities of each of the participants. The inventory outlines common interests and serves as the basis for the programme of work.

Data were collected from 19 participating countries. Motivating drivers include the driving forces for goal-oriented actions (e.g.planning, strategy development or strategic directions and implementation). Technologies are those that will develop or be deployed to support the driver. The top six motivating drivers from the study include renewable energy standards or targets; systems efficiency improvements; reliability improvements; enabling customer choice and participation; enabling new products, services, and markets; and energy efficiency improvements. The top-ranking technology priorities included advanced metering infrastructure2, integrating large-sized variable renewables, demand response, wind, and distributed energy resources.

These top-ranked drivers and technologies are largely consistent across the range of continents though there are differences between world regions, as well as between developed and emerging economies.

Developed economies responding to the survey emphasised drivers and technologies that enable integration of new products, services, and clean energy sources. On the other hand, emerging economies prioritised elements that improve the reliable and cost-effective operation of the existing electricity network. 

1. A high-level global forum to promote policies and programs that advance clean energy technology, to share lessons learned and best practices, and to encourage the transition to a global clean energy economy.

2. Electricity meters that use two-way communication to collect electricity usage and related information from customers and to deliver information to customers.

Current projects

  • Global smart grid inventory 
  • Smart grid case studies
  • Benefit-cost analyses and toolkits
  • Power transmission and distribution systems 
  • Synthesis of insights for decision makers
  • Smart grid international research facility network

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1.Information or material of the IEA Energy Technology Initiatives, or ETIs (formally organised under the auspices of an Implementing Agreement), including information or material published on this website, does not necessarily represent the views or policies of the IEA Secretariat or of the IEA’s individual Member countries. The IEA does not make any representation or warranty (express or implied) in respect of such information (including as to its completeness, accuracy or non-infringement) and shall not be held liable for any use of, or reliance on, such information.