Smart meters can jeopardize grid reliability

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Since the beginning of 2010, newly built or completely renovated buildings in Germany have to be fixed with smart meters. This is to allow electricity consumers to "switch on or off" in accordance with current generation capacity and electricity prices. The idea is to help households and business entities save energy costs. The University of Bremen, however, seems to have found a glitch in this idea.

The researchers at the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of Bremen have simulated what can potentially happen when smart meters on a massive scale react collectively to electricity price signals. The result: the smart meters end up providing a new artificial electricity market, which can cause the electricity supply to crash. This in turn endangers the security of supply.

The good old example of washing machines was put forth as an example by the researchers. When households program their washing machines to turn on when the smart meter shows a cheaper electricity price, then this so-called "collective avalanche mechanism" can occur. This can cause an extreme burden on the grid. Blackouts as a result of the unexpected overload have not been ruled out.

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