Development of smart grids in Latin America and the Caribbean discussed at IEA workshop

4 July 2011

Exploring opportunities and challenges related to the development of smart grids in Latin America and the Caribbean was the focus of a workshop which took place in Mexico City on 29 and 30 June.

Some 200 experts from governments, international organisations, and the private sector attended the two-day meeting, which was hosted by the IEA’s International Low-Carbon Energy Technology Platform, in partnership with Mexico’s Secretaría de Energía and supported by the United Nation’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The workshop – Dialogue Workshop on Smart Grids in Latin America and the Caribbean, Mexico City – was opened by Ambassador Richard Jones, Deputy Executive Director of the IEA, as well as Dr. Jose A. Meade, Mexico’s Secretary of Energy, and Antonio Vivanco Casamadrid, Director General of the Mexican Federal Electricity Commission.

“Smart grids are about making systems more efficient. The subject is complex; therefore we should strive not to make it more complicated than it already is. This would confuse consumers and make deployment of the technology even more difficult,” said Ambassador Jones.

“The discussions over the course of this workshop have helped us to better understand the issues that need to be addressed as well as the components that need to be put in place to make smart grids a reality, in Latin American and the Caribbean and around the world.”

The implementation of smart grids throughout the region was highlighted as critical to help reduce high losses in electricity distribution networks; provide access to modern energy services in rural areas through distributed generation; and integrate variable renewables (such as solar photovoltaic, wind and tidal energy) to enable diversification of energy supply.

While countries throughout the region are very diverse, many similar challenges must be overcome to support the implementation of smart grids. This illustrates the need for enhanced international collaboration, and the value of adopting a regional vision for smart grids deployment.

The workshop served as an important step in the establishment of a longer-term collaboration to support the deployment of smart grids the region. Future IEA activities are under development in collaboration with the International Low-Carbon Energy Technology Platform and the International Smart Grids Action Network.

What is a smart grid?
It is an electricity network that uses digital and other advanced technologies to monitor and manage the transport of electricity from all generation sources to meet the varying electricity demands of end users. Smart grids co-ordinate the needs and capabilities of all generators, grid operators, end users and electricity market stakeholders to operate all parts of the system as efficiently as possible, minimising costs and environmental impacts while maximising system reliability, resilience and stability.