Abu Dhabi to pioneer new 'smart' power grid

New meters will not only calculate power usage but also allow consumers to sell their own solar-generated electricity back to the grid.

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ABU DHABI // The capital is to be a global pioneer of the "smart" electricity grid, a technological innovation that could lead to a solar panel on almost every rooftop. The Abu Dhabi Distribution Company (ADDC), which supplies electricity to the city and surrounding areas, will have installed digital electricity meters in all buildings by the end of this year, its deputy managing director Abdulrahman al Dhaheri said yesterday.

The new meters not only calculate power usage, but also allow consumers to sell their own solar-generated electricity back to the grid. Two other changes are under consideration by the Abu Dhabi Executive Council: a subsidy scheme for rooftop solar panels and the first increase in power prices in 15 years. ADDC has proposed subsidies that would pay homeowners to install solar panels on their roofs with total output capacity of 500 megawatts, a third of the Government's renewable energy target.

The digital meter installations, already 65 per cent complete, will give ADDC the data and tools it needs to try to slow galloping consumption growth, Mt al Dhaheri said. The proposed changes are the key planks in the Abu Dhabi Government's strategy to generate 7 per cent of electricity from solar power and other clean energy sources by 2020, which will in turn cut greenhouse gas emissions. The Abu Dhabi Executive Council is also considering a power price increase of undetermined size recommended last week by the Regulation and Supervision Bureau (RSB), the industry regulator. A price increase would be the most effective way to persuade consumers to switch off lights and turn up the thermostat, experts agree.

A traditional meter records a customer's continuous usage, which can be read at intervals, usually of a month. The new digital meters can be monitored to show consumption peaks and troughs throughout the day. They will also allow households to sell power from rooftop solar panels back into the grid, Mr al Dhaheri said. The meter is the basis for a "smart grid" designed to enable a utility to control consumption, said Reinier Grobbelaar, a UAE business manager for ABB, the Swiss power equipment supplier.

"Whereas the control system of a traditional grid assumes the demand side to be a 'given', smart grids create incentives for consumers to modify their consumption patterns," he said. The Executive Council said last week that it had "agreed to the memorandum submitted by the RSB with regards to tariffs of progressive consumption segments of water and electricity". cstanton@thenational.ae