Around the world more than 5.5 million circuit lines connect power systems to homes, communities and countries. These threads of infrastructure provide more than just energy — they provide opportunity to power our hospitals, our schools and our economies.

Driving innovation in technology, super computers and artificial intelligence are helping to modernize global electricity grids and make them more resilient to shifting global weather patterns. Climate change is testing energy grids and their ability to withstand and recover from severe weather events, placing increasing pressure on communities to find solutions.

In 2017 Hurricane Harvey tore through Texas as a category 4 storm, leaving a trail of destruction, flooding out communities and cutting power to millions. The cost of the cleanup and recovery was over $100 billion dollars.

“In one generation, we’ve seen how unpredictable weather has become,” says Jay Khosla, Assistant Deputy Minister, Energy Sector, Natural Resources Canada. “As distribution systems become more vulnerable to hurricanes, wind, lightning, ice, freezing rain and snow, a grid’s resiliency is challenged. So nowhere is investment more important today than in our electricity systems.”

Storms like Harvey are a reminder of the potential vulnerability of energy infrastructure as the climate shifts.

Enter smart grids.

Relying on the latest in AI and computing, these grids are able to minimize power loss when storms roll through thanks to their ability to track grid performance and report data outage in real time. This technology provides timely information in a natural disaster so that crews can redirect power to affected areas and restore power quickly to affected communities. Smart grids also cut back on waste, producing fewer emissions.

The global smart grid future will be explored at this year’s CEM10/MI4 Ministerial meetings in Vancouver from May 27 to 29, setting the stage for international Ministerial counterparts and energy leaders to accelerate a clean energy future.

“By modernizing our grids, we can integrate more renewable and non-emitting energy. More importantly, we can connect affordable and reliable clean power with communities that need it — paving the way for a low-carbon future powered by clean electricity.” says Khosla.

Thanks to digital technology, rural and remote communities can also benefit from smart grid technology, reducing emissions and proving that sustainable resource management is possible.

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Want to learn more?

Smart Energy Platforms and Testbeds: Enabling Tomorrow’s Flexible Energy Systems

International Smart Grid Action Network Awards of Excellence